Evaluation of the specificity of antibodies raised against cannabinoid receptor type 2 in the mouse retina

Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2014 Feb;387(2):175-84. doi: 10.1007/s00210-013-0930-8. Epub 2013 Nov 5.


Cannabinoid receptors (CB1R and CB2R) are among the most abundant G protein-coupled receptors in the central nervous system. The endocannabinoid system is an attractive therapeutic target for immune system modulation and peripheral pain management. While CB1R is distributed in the nervous system, CB2R has traditionally been associated to the immune system. This dogma is currently a subject of debate since the discovery of CB2R expression in neurons using antibody-based methods. The localization of CB2R in the central nervous system (CNS) could have a significant impact on drug development because it would mean that in addition to its effects on the peripheral pain pathway, CB2R could also mediate some central effects of cannabinoids. In an attempt to clarify the debate over CB2R expression in the CNS, we tested several commercially or academically produced CB2R antibodies using Western blot and immunohistochemistry on retinal tissue obtained from wild-type mice and mice lacking CB2R (cnr2 (-/-) ). One of the antibodies tested exhibited a valuable specificity as it marked a single band near the predicted molecular weight in Western blot and produced no staining in cnr2 (-/-) mice retina sections. The other antibodies tested detected multiple bands in Western blot and labeled unidentified proteins when used with their immunizing peptide or on cnr2 (-/-) retinal sections. We conclude that many commonly used antibodies raised against CB2R are not specific for use in immunohistochemistry, at least in the context of the mouse retina. Moreover, some of them tested presented significant lot-to-lot variability. Hence, caution should be used when interpreting prior and future studies using CB2R antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antibody Specificity*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / immunology*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism*
  • Retina / metabolism*


  • Antibodies
  • Cnr2 protein, mouse
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2