American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology

Activation of cannabinoid receptor 2 reduces inflammation in acute experimental pancreatitis via intra-acinar activation of p38 and MK2-dependent mechanisms.

PMID 23139224


The endocannabinoid system has been shown to mediate beneficial effects on gastrointestinal inflammation via cannabinoid receptors 1 (CB(1)) and 2 (CB(2)). These receptors have also been reported to activate the MAP kinases p38 and c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), which are involved in early acinar events leading to acute pancreatitis and induction of proinflammatory cytokines. Our aim was to examine the role of cannabinoid receptor activation in an experimental model of acute pancreatitis and the potential involvement of MAP kinases. Cerulein pancreatitis was induced in wild-type, CB(1)-/-, and MK2-/- mice pretreated with selective cannabinoid receptor agonists or antagonists. Severity of pancreatitis was determined by serum amylase and IL-6 levels, intracellular activation of pancreatic trypsinogen, lung myeloperoxidase activity, pancreatic edema, and histological examinations. Pancreatic lysates were investigated by Western blotting using phospho-specific antibodies against p38 and JNK. Quantitative PCR data, Western blotting experiments, and immunohistochemistry clearly show that CB(1) and CB(2) are expressed in mouse pancreatic acini. During acute pancreatitis, an upregulation especially of CB(2) on apoptotic cells occurred. The unselective CB(1)/CB(2) agonist HU210 ameliorated pancreatitis in wild-type and CB(1)-/- mice, indicating that this effect is mediated by CB(2). Furthermore, blockade of CB(2), not CB(1), with selective antagonists engraved pathology. Stimulation with a selective CB(2) agonist attenuated acute pancreatitis and an increased activation of p38 was observed in the acini. With use of MK2-/- mice, it could be demonstrated that this attenuation is dependent on MK2. Hence, using the MK2-/- mouse model we reveal a novel CB(2)-activated and MAP kinase-dependent pathway that modulates cytokine expression and reduces pancreatic injury and affiliated complications.