Cannabinoid CB2R receptors are upregulated with corneal injury and regulate the course of corneal wound healing

Exp Eye Res. 2019 May;182:74-84. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2019.03.011. Epub 2019 Mar 21.


CB2R receptors have demonstrated beneficial effects in wound healing in several models. We therefore investigated a potential role of CB2R receptors in corneal wound healing. We examined the functional contribution of CB2R receptors to the course of wound closure in an in vivo murine model. We additionally examined corneal expression of CB2R receptors in mouse and the consequences of their activation on cellular signaling, migration and proliferation in cultured bovine corneal epithelial cells (CECs). Using a novel mouse model, we provide evidence that corneal injury increases CB2R receptor expression in cornea. The CB2R agonist JWH133 induces chemorepulsion in cultured bovine CECs but does not alter CEC proliferation. The signaling profile of CB2R activation is activating MAPK and increasing cAMP accumulation, the latter perhaps due to Gs-coupling. Lipidomic analysis in bovine cornea shows a rise in acylethanolamines including the endocannabinoid anandamide 1 h after injury. In vivo, CB2R deletion and pharmacological block result in a delayed course of wound closure. In summary, we find evidence that CB2R receptor promoter activity is increased by corneal injury and that these receptors are required for the normal course of wound closure, possibly via chemorepulsion.

Keywords: CB2; Cannabinoid; Chemotaxis; Cornea; Corneal wound healing; Endocannabinoid; Lag phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis / physiology
  • Corneal Injuries / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Epithelium, Corneal / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid