Potency Assessment of CBD Oils by Their Effects on Cell Signaling Pathways

Nutrients. 2020 Jan 30;12(2):357. doi: 10.3390/nu12020357.


This study used nanofluidic protein posttranslational modification (PTM) profiling to measure the effects of six cannabidiol (CBD) oils and isolated CBD on the signaling pathways of a cultured SH-SY5Y neuronal cell line. Chemical composition analysis revealed that all CBD oils met the label claims and legal regulatory limit regarding the CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contents, respectively. Isolated CBD was cytotoxic, with an effective concentration (EC50) of 40 µM. In contrast, the CBD oils had no effect on cell viability at CBD concentrations exceeding 1.2 mM. Interestingly, only an unadulterated CBD oil had strong and statistically significant suppressive effects on the pI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway with an EC50 value of 143 µM and a slow-acting timescale requiring hours. Systematic profiling of twenty-six proteins, which served as biomarkers for nine signaling pathways, revealed that the unadulterated CBD oil downregulated seven signaling pathways but had no measurable effect on the other two signaling pathways. The remaining CBD oils, which were adulterated, and isolated CBD had weak, variable, or undetectable effects on neuronal signaling pathways. Our data clearly showed that adulteration diminished the biological activities of CBD oils. In addition, nanofluidic protein PTM profiling provided a robust means for potency assessment of CBD oils.

Keywords: adulteration; cannabidiol; capillary isoelectric focusing; nanofluidic proteomics; neuronal signaling pathways; potency assessment; protein posttranslational modification.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Plant Oils
  • Cannabidiol