Targeting cannabinoid receptors as a novel approach in the treatment of graft-versus-host disease: Evidence from an experimental murine model

Rupal Pandey, Venkatesh L. Hegde, Mitzi Nagarkatti, Prakash S. Nagarkatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is widely used to treat patients with life-threatening malignant and non-malignant hematological diseases. However, allogeneic HCT often is accompanied by severe and lethal complications from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in which activated donor T cells recognize histocompatibility antigenic mismatches and cause significant toxicity in the recipient. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that activation of cannabinoid receptors on donor-derived T cells may prevent GVHD. We tested the effect of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in an acute model of GVHD that was induced by transferring parental C57BL/6 (B6) spleen cells into (C57BL/6 X DBA/2) F1(BDF1) mice. Transfer of B6 cells into BDF1 mice produced severe acute GVHD in the recipient, characterized by lymphoid hyperplasia, weight loss, T helper l cytokine production and mortality. THC administration led to early recovery from body weight loss, reduced tissue injury in the liver and intestine, as well as complete survival. THC treatment reduced the expansion of donor-derived effector T cells and blocked the killing of host-derived immune cells while promoting Foxp3 + regulatory T cells. Impaired hematopoiesis seen during GVHD was rescued by treatment with THC. The ability of THC to reduce the clinical GVHD was reversed, at least in part, by administration of cannabinoid receptor (CB) 1 and CB2 antagonists, thereby demonstrating that THC-mediated amelioration of GVHD was cannabinoid receptor-dependent. Our results demonstrate for the first time that targeting cannabinoid receptors may constitute a novel treatment modality against acute GVHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)819-828
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Volume338
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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