Inhibition of protein kinase A and cyclic AMP response element (CRE)-specific transcription factor binding by delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC): a putative mechanism of cannabinoid-induced immune modulation

Biochem Pharmacol. 1997 May 15;53(10):1477-84. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(97)82441-0.


Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) binding to cannabinoid receptors induces an inhibition in adenylate cyclase activity through the engagement of a pertussis toxin-sensitive GTP-binding protein. In this study we investigated the ramifications of decreased cyclic AMP (cAMP) formation by delta9-THC on signaling events through the cAMP pathway distal to adenylate cyclase in mouse splenocytes. Delta9-THC treatment produced a marked and concentration-related decrease in forskolin-inducible protein kinase A (PKA) activity. This decrease in kinase activity was due to an inhibition in cAMP formation and not through a direct effect on the kinase as evidenced by the fact that PKA activity could not be modulated directly by delta9-THC in the presence of exogenous cAMP. One of the primary roles of PKA in this signaling pathway is to activate transcription factors for subsequent binding to cAMP response elements (CRE) present in the promoter region of cAMP-responsive genes. In the present studies, we observed that forskolin treatment of splenocytes resulted in a rapid activation of trans-acting factor binding to the CRE, which peaked at 30-60 min and whose binding was repressed concentration dependently in the presence of delta9-THC. As with forskolin, mitogenic stimulation including anti-CD3 mAb or phorbol ester plus ionomycin treatment of splenocytes induced CRE binding activity, which was maximal around 60 min and was suppressed by delta9-THC treatment. In conclusion, these data indicate that cAMP-mediated signal transduction is inhibited by delta9-THC and consequently leads to a decrease in the activation of transcription factors that bind to CRE regulatory sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • CD3 Complex / immunology
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Ionomycin / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • CD3 Complex
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Hallucinogens
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Colforsin
  • Ionomycin
  • Dronabinol
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate