Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Kathleen L. McCoy


Cysteine cathepsins B, L and S are endosomal/lysosomal proteases that participate in numerous physiological systems. Cathepsin expression and activity are altered during various inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. Early immune responses to microbial pathogens are mediated by pattern-recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors (TLR). Signaling through TLR causes cell activation and release of inflammatory mediators, which can contribute to the severity of chronic inflammatory diseases. The impact of TLR cell activation on cathepsins B, L and S activities was investigated using live-cell enzymatic assays. Individual ligands of TLR4, TLR2 and TLR3 increased intracellular activities of the three cathepsins indicating the involvement of both MyD88-dependent and -independent pathways. To investigate the role of inflammatory cytokines in regulating these proteases, a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) non-responsive cell line was utilized. LPS non-responsive cells co-cultured with LPS responsive macrophages upregulated cathepsin activities. Furthermore, culture supernatants from LPS-stimulated macrophages increased cathepsin activities in LPS non-responsive cells, which could be reduced by neutralizing antibodies to TNF-α or IL-1β. These findings indicate cytokines regulate cathepsin activities during macrophage responses to TLR stimulation. Using LPS as a model for inflammation, the ability of the cannabinoids, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and CP55940 to suppress cysteine cathepsins during an inflammatory response was investigated. Cannabinoids, including the major psychoactive component of marijuana THC, modulate a variety of immune responses and have been proposed as possible therapeutics to control chronic inflammation. Cannabinoids may mediate their effects through receptor-dependent or independent mechanisms. Cannabinoid receptor subtype 1 (CB1) and receptor subtype 2 (CB2) have differential expression in leukocytes. Dose response studies showed that 1 nM THC was sufficient to inhibit cathepsin enhancement in LPS-stimulated cells. P388D1 macrophages expressed CB2 mRNA, but had no detectable CB1 mRNA indicating a role for the CB2 receptor. Utilizing a CB2-/- macrophage cell line, the role of CB2 receptor participation in THC inhibition of cysteine cathepsin upregulation was explored. THC did not affect cathepsin activity in LPS-stimulated cells lacking CB2 expression. These findings support the possibility of receptor selective agonists as therapeutic treatment during inflammatory diseases to prevent cathepsin involvement in pathological tissue destruction.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2008