The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics

Cannabinol-mediated inhibition of nuclear factor-kappaB, cAMP response element-binding protein, and interleukin-2 secretion by activated thymocytes.

PMID 10565837


Cannabinol (CBN), an immunosuppressive cannabinoid and ligand for the peripheral cannabinoid receptor CB2, inhibits the cAMP signaling cascade in forskolin-stimulated thymocytes. The objective of the present studies was to further characterize the mechanism of CBN immune modulation by investigating its effects on interleukin-2 (IL-2) secretion, cAMP response element (CRE), and kappaB DNA binding activity in phorbol ester (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate, PMA) plus calcium ionophore (PMA/Io)-activated thymocytes. PMA/Io treatment induced CRE and kappaB DNA binding activity that was attenuated in the presence of CBN. A concomitant and concentration-related inhibition of IL-2 also was produced by CBN in PMA/Io-activated thymocytes. PMA/Io induced two CRE DNA binding complexes, a major complex consisting of a cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB)-1 homodimer, and a minor CREB-1/activating transcription factor (ATF)-2 complex. Both CRE complexes were inhibited by CBN. Conversely, two kappaB DNA binding complexes were observed, but only one was PMA/Io-inducible. However, the DNA binding activity of both complexes was diminished in the presence of CBN. The PMA/Io-inducible kappaB complex was a p65/c-Rel heterodimer. Analysis of up-stream regulation revealed a decrease in phosphorylated CREB/ATF nuclear proteins in PMA/Io-activated thymocytes after CBN treatment. Similarly, CBN prevented the phosphorylation-dependent degradation of the nuclear factor-kappaB inhibitory protein IkappaB-alpha. These results provide a potential link between the CBN-mediated inhibition of thymocyte function, including IL-2 production, and the inhibition of two critical transcription factor families, CREB/ATF and NF-kappaB/Rel.