Stimulation of cannabinoid CB1 receptors prevents nerve-mediated airway hyperreactivity in NGF-induced inflammation in mouse airways

Eur J Pharmacol. 2016 Apr 5;776:132-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2016.02.045. Epub 2016 Feb 16.


Cannabinoids are known to inhibit neuronal activity and have significant immunomodulatory effects which suggest a role in inflammatory airway diseases. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that cannabinoids have both acute and chronic modulatory effects on nerve-mediated contractions in NGF-induced airway inflammation. Contractions induced by electrical field stimulation (EFS) were examined in tracheal segments isolated from male BALB/c mice. Tissues were both used fresh or after four days of culture with NGF to induce airway inflammation, and further exposed to cannabinoid receptor agonists. In order to evaluate nerve density, tracheal segments were also examined by immunohistochemistry after in vitro treatments. The CB1 receptor agonists ACEA and ACPA inhibited the constant train EFS-induced contractions in both fresh and NGF-exposed tracheas, an effect that could be blocked by the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251. Culturing the tissues with NGF up-regulated the frequency-dependent EFS-contractions in isolated tracheas. This up-regulation could be inhibited by concomitant treatment with ACEA or ACPA. The treatment with NGF and/or ACEA did not affect the potency or the maximum response to carbachol. In histological sections, it was recognized that the enhanced effect induced by NGF was associated with an increase in nerve density, which, similarly, could be prevented by ACEA treatment. This study shows that stimulation of cannabinoid CB1 receptors modifies the increase of neuronal activity and density in NGF-induced airway inflammation and directly inhibits cholinergic contractions in the airways by a presynaptic mechanism. These findings indicate a protective role of CB1 receptors in airway inflammation.

Keywords: Airway; Airway hyperreactivity; Airway inflammation; Cannabinoid; Nerve growth factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • BALB 3T3 Cells
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism*
  • Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / pharmacology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / agonists
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism
  • Trachea / drug effects*
  • Trachea / innervation*


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Nerve Growth Factor