Chronic Δ(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol Administration Reduces IgE(+)B Cells but Unlikely Enhances Pathogenic SIVmac251 Infection in Male Rhesus Macaques of Chinese Origin

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2016 Sep;11(3):584-591. doi: 10.1007/s11481-016-9674-9. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC) is the major psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Δ(9)-THC has been used in the active ingredient of Marinol as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients. Its impact on progression of HIV-1 infection, however, remains debatable. Previous studies indicated that Δ(9)-THC administration enhanced HIV-1 infection in huPBL-SCID mice but seemingly decreased early mortality in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infected male Indian-derived rhesus macaques. Here, we determine the chronic effect of Δ(9)-THC administration using 0.32 mg/kg or placebo (PBO), i.m., twice daily for 428 days on SIVmac251 infected male Chinese-derived rhesus macaques. Sixteen animals were divided into four study groups: Δ(9)-THC(+)SIV(+), Δ(9)-THC(+)SIV(-), PBO/SIV(+) and PBO/SIV(-) (n = 4/group). One-month after daily Δ(9)-THC or PBO administrations, macaques in groups one and three were challenged intravenously with pathogenic SIVmac251/CNS, which was isolated from the brain of a Chinese macaque with end-staged neuroAIDS. No significant differences in peak and steady state plasma viral loads were seen between Δ(9)-THC(+)SIV(+) and PBO/SIV(+) macaques. Regardless of Δ(9)-THC, all infected macaques displayed significant drop of CD4/CD8 T cell ratio, loss of CD4(+) T cells and higher persistent levels of Ki67(+)CD8(+) T cells compared with uninfected animals. Moreover, long-term Δ(9)-THC treatment reduced significantly the frequency of circulating IgE(+)B cells. Only one Δ(9)-THC(+)SIV(+) macaque died of simian AIDS with paralyzed limbs compared with two deaths in the PBO/SIV(+) group during the study period. These findings indicate that chronic Δ(9)-THC administration resulted in reduction of IgE(+)B cells, yet it unlikely enhanced pathogenic SIVmac251/CNS infection in male Rhesus macaques of Chinese origin.

Keywords: AIDS; Cannabinoids; HIV-1; IgE+B cell; Rhesus macaque; SIV; THC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • China
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / blood*
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus*


  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Dronabinol