Δ 9 -Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid Alleviates Collagen-Induced Arthritis: Role of PPARγ and CB 1 Receptors

Br J Pharmacol. 2020 Jun 8. doi: 10.1111/bph.15155. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background and purpose: Δ9 -Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ9 -THCA-A), the precursor of Δ9 -THC, is a non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid that shows PPARγ agonist activity. Here, we investigated the ability of Δ9 -THCA-A to modulate the classic cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors and evaluated its anti-arthritis activity in vitro and in vivo.

Experimental approach: Cannabinoid receptors binding and intrinsic activity, as well as their downstream signalling, were analysed in vitro and in silico. The anti-arthritis properties of Δ9 -THCA-A were studied in human chondrocytes and in the murine model of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). Plasma disease biomarkers were identified by LC-MS/MS based on proteomic and elisa assays.

Key results: Functional and docking analyses showed that Δ9 -THCA-A can act as an orthosteric CB1 receptor agonist and also as a positive allosteric modulator in the presence of CP-55,940. Also, Δ9 -THCA-A seemed to be an inverse agonist for CB2 receptors. In vivo, Δ9 -THCA-A reduced arthritis in CIA mice, preventing the infiltration of inflammatory cells, synovium hyperplasia, and cartilage damage. Furthermore, Δ9 -THCA-A inhibited expression of inflammatory and catabolic genes on knee joints. The anti-arthritic effect of Δ9 -THCA-A was blocked by either SR141716 or T0070907. Analysis of plasma biomarkers, and determination of cytokines and anti-collagen antibodies confirmed that Δ9 -THCA-A mediated its activity mainly through PPARγ and CB1 receptor pathways.

Conclusion and implications: Δ9 -THCA-A modulates CB1 receptors through the orthosteric and allosteric binding sites. In addition, Δ9 -THCA-A exerts anti-arthritis activity through CB1 receptors and PPARγ pathways, highlighting its potential for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.