Functional Selectivity of Cannabinoid Type 1 G Protein-Coupled Receptor Agonists in Transactivating Glycosylated Receptors on Cancer Cells to Induce Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition Metastatic Phenotype

Cells. 2024 Mar 8;13(6):480. doi: 10.3390/cells13060480.


Understanding the role of biased G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) agonism in receptor signaling may provide novel insights into the opposing effects mediated by cannabinoids, particularly in cancer and cancer metastasis. GPCRs can have more than one active state, a phenomenon called either 'biased agonism', 'functional selectivity', or 'ligand-directed signaling'. However, there are increasing arrays of cannabinoid allosteric ligands with different degrees of modulation, called 'biased modulation', that can vary dramatically in a probe- and pathway-specific manner, not from simple differences in orthosteric ligand efficacy or stimulus-response coupling. Here, emerging evidence proposes the involvement of CB1 GPCRs in a novel biased GPCR signaling paradigm involving the crosstalk between neuraminidase-1 (Neu-1) and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in the activation of glycosylated receptors through the modification of the receptor glycosylation state. The study findings highlighted the role of CB1 agonists AM-404, Aravnil, and Olvanil in significantly inducing Neu-1 sialidase activity in a dose-dependent fashion in RAW-Blue, PANC-1, and SW-620 cells. This approach was further substantiated by findings that the neuromedin B receptor inhibitor, BIM-23127, MMP-9 inhibitor, MMP9i, and Neu-1 inhibitor, oseltamivir phosphate, could specifically block CB1 agonist-induced Neu-1 sialidase activity. Additionally, we found that CB1 receptors exist in a multimeric receptor complex with Neu-1 in naïve, unstimulated RAW-Blue, PANC-1, and SW-620 cells. This complex implies a molecular link that regulates the interaction and signaling mechanism among these molecules present on the cell surface. Moreover, the study results demonstrate that CB1 agonists induce NFκB-dependent secretory alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) activity in influencing the expression of epithelial-mesenchymal markers, E-cadherin, and vimentin in SW-620 cells, albeit the impact on E-cadherin expression is less pronounced compared to vimentin. In essence, this innovative research begins to elucidate an entirely new molecular mechanism involving a GPCR signaling paradigm in which cannabinoids, as epigenetic stimuli, may traverse to influence gene expression and contribute to cancer and cancer metastasis.

Keywords: CB1 receptor; MMP9; Neu1; PANC-1; RAW-blue; SEAP; SW-620; cannabinoid.

MeSH terms

  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Glycosylation
  • Ligands
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Neoplasms*
  • Neuraminidase / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9
  • Vimentin
  • Ligands
  • Neuraminidase
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cadherins