Inhibition of the cyclic AMP signaling cascade and nuclear factor binding to CRE and kappaB elements by cannabinol, a minimally CNS-active cannabinoid

Biochem Pharmacol. 1998 Apr 1;55(7):1013-23. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(97)00630-8.


Immune suppression by cannabinoids has been widely demonstrated in a variety of experimental models. The identification of two major types of G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors expressed on leukocytes, CB1 and CB2, has provided a putative mechanism of action for immune modulation by cannabinoid compounds. Ligand binding to both receptors negatively regulates adenylate cyclase, thereby lowering intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels. In the present studies, we demonstrated that cannabinol (CBN), a ligand that exhibits higher binding affinity for CB2, modulates immune responses and cAMP-mediated signal transduction in mouse lymphoid cells. Direct addition of CBN to naive cultured splenocytes produced a concentration-dependent inhibition of lymphoproliferative responses to anti-CD3, lipopolysaccharide, and phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate/ionomycin stimulation. Similarly, a concentration-related inhibition of the in vitro anti-sheep red blood cell IgM antibody forming cell response was also observed by CBN. Evaluation of cAMP signaling in the presence of CBN showed a rapid and concentration-related inhibition of adenylate cyclase activity in both splenocytes and thymocytes. This decrease in intracellular cAMP levels produced by CBN resulted in a reduction of protein kinase A activity, consequently leading to an inhibition of transcription factor binding to the cAMP response element and kappaB motifs in both cell preparations. Collectively, these results demonstrate that CBN, a cannabinoid with minimal CNS activity, inhibited both cAMP signal transduction and immune function, further supporting the involvement of CB2 receptors in immune modulation by cannabimimetic agents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 2
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects
  • Cannabinol / pharmacology*
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Culture Media
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Immunoglobulin M / biosynthesis
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Activating Transcription Factor 2
  • Culture Media
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • NF-kappa B
  • Transcription Factors
  • Colforsin
  • Cannabinol
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases