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Keywords:

  • cannabinoids;
  • contact allergy;
  • inflammation;
  • keratinocytes;
  • T cells

Abstract

Background

9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active constituent of Cannabis sativa, exerts its biological effects in part through the G-protein-coupled CB1 and CB2 receptors, which were initially discovered in brain and spleen tissue, respectively. However, THC also has CB1/2 receptor-independent effects. Because of its immune-inhibitory potential, THC and related cannabinoids are being considered for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Here we investigated the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory activity of THC and the role of CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Methods

We evaluated the impact of topically applied THC on DNFB-mediated allergic contact dermatitis in wild-type and CB1/2 receptor-deficient mice. We performed immunohistochemical analyses for infiltrating immune cells and studied the influence of THC on the interaction between T cells, keratinocytes and myeloid immune cells in vitro.

Results

Topical THC application effectively decreased contact allergic ear swelling and myeloid immune cell infiltration not only in wild-type but also in CB1/2 receptor-deficient mice. We found that THC (1) inhibited the production of IFNγ by T cells, (2) decreased the production of CCL2 and of IFNγ-induced CCL8 and CXL10 by epidermal keratinocytes and (3) thereby limited the recruitment of myeloid immune cells in vitro in a CB1/2 receptor-independent manner.

Conclusions

Topically applied THC can effectively attenuate contact allergic inflammation by decreasing keratinocyte-derived pro-inflammatory mediators that orchestrate myeloid immune cell infiltration independent of CB1/2 receptors. This has important implications for the future development of strategies to harness cannabinoids for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases.