The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016 Dec;73(23):4449-4470. doi: 10.1007/s00018-016-2300-4. Epub 2016 Jul 11.


The CB2 receptor is the peripheral receptor for cannabinoids. It is mainly expressed in immune tissues, highlighting the possibility that the endocannabinoid system has an immunomodulatory role. In this respect, the CB2 receptor was shown to modulate immune cell functions, both in cellulo and in animal models of inflammatory diseases. In this regard, numerous studies have reported that mice lacking the CB2 receptor have an exacerbated inflammatory phenotype. This suggests that therapeutic strategies aiming at modulating CB2 signaling could be promising for the treatment of various inflammatory conditions. Herein, we review the pharmacology of the CB2 receptor, its expression pattern, and the signaling pathways induced by its activation. We next examine the regulation of immune cell functions by the CB2 receptor and the evidence obtained from primary human cells, immortalized cell lines, and animal models of inflammation. Finally, we discuss the possible therapies targeting the CB2 receptor and the questions that remain to be addressed to determine whether this receptor could be a potential target to treat inflammatory disease.

Keywords: CB2 receptor; Cannabinoid; Endocannabinoid; Inflammation; Leukocytes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2

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