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Cannabinoid receptor type 2

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Cannabinoid receptor 2 (macrophage), also known as CB2 or CNR2, is a G protein-coupled receptor from the cannabinoid receptor family, which in humans is encoded by the CNR2 gene.[1] It is closely related to the cannabinoid receptor 1 which is responsible for the psychoactive properties of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active principle of marijuana.[1][2]


CB2 was cloned in 1993 by a research group from Cambridge looking for a second cannabinoid receptor which could explain the pharmacological properties of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active principle of marijuana.[1]


Like the CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors inhibit the activity of adenylyl cyclase through their Gi/Goα subunits.[3][4] Through their Gβγ subunits, CB2 receptors are also known to be coupled to the MAPK/ERK pathway[3][4][5], a complex and highly conserved signal transduction pathway, which critically regulates a number of important cellular processes in both mature and developing tissues.[6] Activation of the MAPK-ERK pathway by CB2 receptor agonists acting on the Gβγ receptor subunit ultimately results in changes in cell migration[7] as well as in an induction of the growth-related gene Zif268(also known as Krox-24, NGFI-A, and egr-1)[5] The Zifi268 gene encodes a transcriptional regulator implicated in neuroplasticity and long term memory formation.[8]

At present, there are five recognized cannabinoids which are produced endogenously throughout the body; these endocannabinoids include Arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide), 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), 2-arachidonyl glyceryl ether (noladin ether), virodhamine,[3] as well as the recently-discovered N-arachidonoyl-dopamine (NADA).[9] Many of these ligands appear to exhibit properties of functional selectivity at the CB2 receptor: 2-AG preferentially activates the MAPK-ERK pathway, while noladin preferentially inhibits adenylyl cyclase[3]. Like noladin, the synthetic ligand CP-55,940 has also been shown to preferentially inhibit adenylyl cyclase in CB2 receptors.[3] Similar ligand-specific signaling has also been demonstrated in the CB1 receptor.[10] Together, these results support the emerging concept of agonist-directed trafficking at the cannabinoid receptors.


The CB2 receptor is encoded by the CNR2 gene.[1][11] Approximately 360 amino acids comprise the human CB2 receptor, making it somewhat shorter than the 473 amino acid long CB1 receptor.[11] As is commonly seen in G protein-coupled receptors, the CB2 receptor has seven transmembrane spanning domains.[12] The CB2 receptor also contains a glycosylated N-terminus as well as an intracellular C-terminus.[11] The C-terminus of CB2 receptors appears to play a critical role in the regulation of ligand-induced receptor desensitization and downregulation;[11] as a result of these processes, the cell may become less responsive to particular ligands.

The human CB1 and the CB2 receptors share approximately 44% amino acid similarity.[1] When only the transmembrane regions of the receptors are considered, however, the amino acid similarly between the two receptor subtypes is approximately 68%.[11] The amino acid sequence of the CB2 receptor is less highly conserved across human and rodent species as compared to the amino acid sequence of the CB1 receptor.[13] Based on computer modeling, ligand interactions with CB2 receptor residues S3.31 and F5.46 appears to determine differences in CB1 vs CB2 receptor selectivity.[14] In CB2 receptors, lipophilic groups interact with the F5.46 residue, allowing them to form a hydrogen bond with the S3.31 residue.[14] Ultimately, these interactions induce a conformational change in the receptor structure, activating various intracellular signaling pathways. Further research is needed to determine the exact molecular mechanisms of signaling pathway activation, however.[14]

Expression profileEdit

Initial investigation of CB2 receptor expression patterns focused on the presence of CB2 receptors in the peripheral tissues of the immune system.[12] For instance, CB2 receptor mRNA was found throughout the immune tissues of the spleen, tonsils and thymus gland.[12] Northern blot analysis further indicates the expression of the CNR2 gene in immune tissues.[12] These receptors were primarily localized on immune cells such as monocytes, macrophages, B-cells, and T-cells.[12][15][16][17] Further investigation into the expression patterns of the CB2 receptors revealed that CB2 receptor gene transcripts are also widely distributed throughout the brain.[18] The CB2 receptors are found primarily on microglia(the immune cells of the CNS) and not neurons, however.[19] CB2 receptors are also found throughout the gastrointestinal system, where they modulate intestinal inflammatory response.[20] [21] Thus, CB2 receptor agonists are a potential therapeutic target for inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.[21][22]

Functions and Clinical ApplicationsEdit

Primary research on the functioning of the CB2 receptor has focused on the receptor's effects on the immunological activity of leukocytes.[23] Through their inhibition of adenylyl cyclase via their Gi/Goα subunits, CB2 receptor agonists cause a reduction in the intracellular levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).[24][25] Although the exact role of the cAMP cascade in the regulation of immune responses is currently under debate, laboratories have previously demonstrated that inhibition of adenylyl cyclase by CB2 receptor agonists results in a reduction in the transcription factor CREB (cAMP response element binding protein) binding to DNA[23]; this in turn causes changes in the expression of critical immunoregulatory genes,[24] and ultimately a suppression of immune function.[25] Later studies examining the effect of synthetic cannabinoid agonist JWH-015 on CB2 receptors revealed that changes in cAMP levels resulted in the phosphorylation of leukocyte receptor tyrosine kinase at Tyr-505; through this mechanism, T cell receptor signaling was inhibited. These results further demonstrate the immunosuppressive properties of CB2 receptor agonists. Thus, CB2 agonists may also be useful for treatment of inflammation and pain, and they are currently being investigated particularly for forms of pain that do not respond well to conventional treatments, such as neuropathic pain.[26]

CB2 receptors may have possible therapeutic roles in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.[27][28] Specifically, the CB2 agonist JWH-015 was shown to induce macrophages to remove native beta-amyloid protein from frozen human tissues.[29] In patient's with Alzheimer's disease, beta-amyloid proteins form aggregates known as senile plaques, which disrupt neural functioning.[30]

Changes in endocannabinoid levels and/or CB2 receptor expressions have been reported in almost all diseases affecting humans[31], ranging from cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, bone, skin, autoimmune, lung disorders to pain and cancer, and modulating CB2 receptor activity by either selective CB2 receptor agonists or inverse agonists/antagonists (depending on the disease and its stage) holds unique therapeutic potential in these pathologies [31]

Selective LigandsEdit

Many selective ligands for the CB2 receptor are now available.[32]


Antagonists and inverse agonistsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Munro S, Thomas KL, Abu-Shaar M (September 1993). Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids. Nature 365 (6441): 61–5.
  2. Entrez Gene: CNR2 cannabinoid receptor 2 (macrophage).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Shoemaker JL, Ruckle MB, Mayeux PR, Prather PL (2005). Agonist-Directed Trafficking of Response by Endocannabinoids Acting at CB2 Receptors. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 315 (2): 828–838.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Demuth DG, Molleman A. (2006). Cannabinoid Signalling. Life Sci 78 (6): 549–563.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bouaboula M, Poinot-Chazel C, Marchand J, Canat X, Bourrié B, Rinaldi-Carmona M, Calandra B, Le Fur G, Casellas P. (19966). Signaling pathway associated with stimulation of CB2 peripheral cannabinoid receptor. Involvement of both mitogen-activated protein kinase and induction of Krox-24 expression.. Eur J Biochem 237 (3): 704–711.
  6. Shvartsman SY, Coppey M, Berezhkovskii AM (2009). MAPK signaling in equations and embryos. Fly (Austin). 3 (1): 62–7.
  7. Klemke RL, Cai S, Gianni AL, Gallagher PJ, Lanerolle P, Cheresh DA. (1997). Regulation of Cell Motility by Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase.. J Cell Bio. 137 (2): 481–492.
  8. Alberini CM. (2009). Transcription factors in long-term memory and synaptic plasticity. Physiol Rev. 89 (1): 121–145.
  9. Bisogno, T., D. Melck, M. Bobrov, N. M. Gretskaya, V. V. Bezuglov, L. De Petrocellis, V. Di Marzo. "N-acyl-dopamines: novel synthetic CB1 cannabinoid-receptor ligands and inhibitors of anandamide inactivation with cannabimimetic activity in vitro and in vivo." The Biochemical Journal. 2000 Nov 1;351 Pt 3:817-24. PMID 11042139
  10. Bonhaus DW, Chang LK, Kwan, Martin GR G. R. (1998). Dual Activation and Inhibition of Adenylyl Cyclase by Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists: Evidence for Agonist-Specific Trafficking of Intracellular Responses. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 287 (3): 884–8.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Cabral GA, Griffin-Thomas L. (2009). Emerging role of the cannabinoid receptor CB2 in immune regulation: therapeutic prospects for neuroinflammation.. Expert Rev Mol Med 11: e3.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Sylvaine G, Sophie M, Marchand J, Dussossoy D, Carriere D, Carayon P, Monsif B, Shire D, LE Fur G, Casellas P (1995). Expression of Central and Peripheral Cannabinoid Receptors in Human Immune Tissues and Leukocyte Subpopulations. Eur J Biochem. 232 (1): 54–61.
  13. Griffin G, Tao Q, Abood ME (2000). Cloning and pharmacological characterization of the rat CB(2) cannabinoid receptor. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 292 (3): 886–894.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Tuccinardi T, Ferrarini PL, Manera C, Ortore G, Saccomanni G, Martinelli A. (2006). Cannabinoid CB2/CB1 selectivity. Receptor modeling and automated docking analysis. J Med Chem 49 (3): 984–994.
  15. Miller AM, Stella N (January 2008). CB2 receptor-mediated migration of immune cells: it can go either way. Br. J. Pharmacol. 153 (2): 299–308.
  16. Ashton JC, Glass M (June 2007). The Cannabinoid CB2 Receptor as a Target for Inflammation-Dependent Neurodegeneration. Curr Neuropharmacol 5 (2): 73–80.
  17. Centonze D, Battistini L, Maccarrone M (2008). The endocannabinoid system in peripheral lymphocytes as a mirror of neuroinflammatory diseases. Curr. Pharm. Des. 14 (23): 2370–42.
  18. Onaivi ES (2006). Neuropsychobiological evidence for the functional presence and expression of cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the brain. Neuropsychobiology 54 (4): 231–46.
  19. Cabral GA, Raborn ES, Griffin L, Dennis J, Marciano-Cabral F (January 2008). CB2 receptors in the brain: role in central immune function. Br. J. Pharmacol. 153 (2): 240–51.
  20. Izzo AA. (2004). Cannabinoids and intestinal motility: welcome to CB2 receptors.. Br J Pharmacol. 142 (8): 1247–54.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Wright KL, Duncan M, Sharkey KA. (2008). Cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract: a regulatory system in states of inflammation. Br J Pharmacol. 153 (2): 263–70.
  22. Capasso R, Borrelli F, Aviello G, Romano B, Scalisi C, Capasso F, Izzo AA. (2008). Cannabidiol, extracted from Cannabis sativa, selectively inhibits inflammatory hypermotility in mice. Br J Pharmacol. 154 (5): 1001–8.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Kaminski NE. (1998). Inhibition of the cAMP signaling cascade via cannabinoid receptors: a putative mechanism of immune modulation by cannabinoid compounds. Toxicol Lett. 102-103: 59–63.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Herring AC, Koh WS, Kaminski NE. (1998). 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. 55 (7): 1013–23.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Kaminski NE. (1996). Immune regulation by cannabinoid compounds through the inhibition of the cyclic AMP signaling cascade and altered gene expression. Biochem Pharmacol. 52 (8): 1133–40.
  26. Cheng Y, Hitchcock SA (July 2007). Targeting cannabinoid agonists for inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Expert Opin Investig Drugs 16 (7): 951–65.
  27. Benito C, Núñez E, Tolón RM, et al. (2003). Cannabinoid CB2 receptors and fatty acid amide hydrolase are selectively overexpressed in neuritic plaque-associated glia in Alzheimer's disease brains. J. Neurosci. 23 (35): 11136–41.
  28. Fernández-Ruiz J, Pazos MR, García-Arencibia M, Sagredo O, Ramos JA (April 2008). Role of CB2 receptors in neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids. Mol. Cell. Endocrinol. 286 (1–2 Suppl 1): S91–6.
  29. Tolón RM, Núñez E, Pazos MR, Benito C, Castillo AI, Martínez-Orgado JA, Romero J. (2009). The activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors stimulates in situ and in vitro beta-amyloid removal by human macrophages. Brain Res. 62 (11): 1984–9.
  30. Tiraboschi P, Hansen LA, Thal LJ, Corey-Bloom J. (2004). The importance of neuritic plaques and tangles to the development and evolution of AD. Neurology 62 (11): 1984–9.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Pacher P, Mechoulam R (2011). Is lipid signaling through cannabinoid 2 receptors part of a protective system?. Prog Lipid Res. 50 (2): 193–211.
  32. Marriott KS, Huffman JW (2008). Recent advances in the development of selective ligands for the cannabinoid CB(2) receptor. Curr Top Med Chem 8 (3): 187–204.

External linksEdit

  • Cannabinoid Receptors: CB2. IUPHAR Database of Receptors and Ion Channels. International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology.

Further readingEdit

  • Oddi S, Spagnuolo P, Bari M, et al. (2007). Differential modulation of type 1 and type 2 cannabinoid receptors along the neuroimmune axis. Int. Rev. Neurobiol. 82: 327–37.
  • Galiègue S, Mary S, Marchand J, et al. (1995). Expression of central and peripheral cannabinoid receptors in human immune tissues and leukocyte subpopulations. Eur. J. Biochem. 232 (1): 54–61.
  • Munro S, Thomas KL, Abu-Shaar M (1993). Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids. Nature 365 (6441): 61–5.
  • Shire D, Calandra B, Rinaldi-Carmona M, et al. (1996). Molecular cloning, expression and function of the murine CB2 peripheral cannabinoid receptor. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1307 (2): 132–6.
  • Tao Q, McAllister SD, Andreassi J, et al. (1999). Role of a conserved lysine residue in the peripheral cannabinoid receptor (CB2): evidence for subtype specificity. Mol. Pharmacol. 55 (3): 605–13.
  • Nong L, Newton C, Friedman H, Klein TW (2002). CB1 and CB2 receptor mRNA expression in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from various donor types. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 493: 229–33.
  • Ho BY, Current L, Drewett JG (2002). Role of intracellular loops of cannabinoid CB(1) receptor in functional interaction with G(alpha16). FEBS Lett. 522 (1–3): 130–4.
  • Matias I, Pochard P, Orlando P, et al. (2002). Presence and regulation of the endocannabinoid system in human dendritic cells. Eur. J. Biochem. 269 (15): 3771–8.
  • Song ZH, Feng W (2002). Absence of a conserved proline and presence of a conserved tyrosine in the CB2 cannabinoid receptor are crucial for its function. FEBS Lett. 531 (2): 290–4.
  • Strausberg RL, Feingold EA, Grouse LH, et al. (2003). Generation and initial analysis of more than 15,000 full-length human and mouse cDNA sequences. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99 (26): 16899–903.
  • Casanova ML, Blázquez C, Martínez-Palacio J, et al. (2003). Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors. J. Clin. Invest. 111 (1): 43–50.
  • Feng W, Song ZH (2003). Effects of D3.49A, R3.50A, and A6.34E mutations on ligand binding and activation of the cannabinoid-2 (CB2) receptor. Biochem. Pharmacol. 65 (7): 1077–85.
  • Kishimoto S, Gokoh M, Oka S, et al. (2003). 2-arachidonoylglycerol induces the migration of HL-60 cells differentiated into macrophage-like cells and human peripheral blood monocytes through the cannabinoid CB2 receptor-dependent mechanism. J. Biol. Chem. 278 (27): 24469–75.
  • Jorda MA, Rayman N, Valk P, et al. (2003). Identification, characterization, and function of a novel oncogene: the peripheral cannabinoid receptor Cb2. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 996: 10–6.
  • Rayman N, Lam KH, Laman JD, et al. (2004). Distinct expression profiles of the peripheral cannabinoid receptor in lymphoid tissues depending on receptor activation status. J. Immunol. 172 (4): 2111–7.
  • Rao GK, Zhang W, Kaminski NE (2004). Cannabinoid receptor-mediated regulation of intracellular calcium by delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol in resting T cells. J. Leukoc. Biol. 75 (5): 884–92.
  • Alberich Jordà M, Rayman N, Tas M, et al. (2004). The peripheral cannabinoid receptor Cb2, frequently expressed on AML blasts, either induces a neutrophilic differentiation block or confers abnormal migration properties in a ligand-dependent manner. Blood 104 (2): 526–34.
  • Núñez E, Benito C, Pazos MR, et al. (2004). Cannabinoid CB2 receptors are expressed by perivascular microglial cells in the human brain: an immunohistochemical study. Synapse 53 (4): 208–13.
  • Gokoh M, Kishimoto S, Oka S, et al. (2005). 2-arachidonoylglycerol, an endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligand, induces rapid actin polymerization in HL-60 cells differentiated into macrophage-like cells. Biochem. J. 386 (Pt 3): 583–9.

This article incorporates text from the United States National Library of Medicine, which is in the public domain.

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