Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Dr. Guy Cabral


Exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids have been reported to modulate functional activities of macrophages. It is recognized that macrophages express primarily the CB2 cannabinoid receptor, but recent studies indicate that its expression is differential in relation to activation state with maximal levels occurring when cells are in "responsive" and "primed" states. The functional activities of macrophages when in these states of activation are the most susceptible to the action of cannabinoids, at least in terms of a functional linkage to the CB2. To assess the effect of cannabinoid treatment on macrophage chemotaxis and test the hypothesis that cannabinoids inhibit the chemotactic response of macrophages and microglia to endogenous and exogenous, pathogen-derived stimuli, primary murine peritoneal macrophages and neonatal rat microglia were used. Chemotaxis assays and scanning electron microscopy studies demonstrated that cannabinoids inhibit chemotaxis, a signature activity attributed to "responsive" macrophage-like cells, to the endogenous chemokine RANTES (Regulated upon Activation Normal T-cell Expressed and Secreted) and to Acanthamoeba conditioned medium containing secreted proteases. The partial agonist delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), administered in vitro, inhibited the chemotactic response of peritoneal macrophages to the chemokine RANTES and to Acanthamoeba conditioned medium. In vivo treatment with THC also resulted in inhibition of the in vitro chemotactic response of murine peritoneal macrophages to RANTES and amoebic conditioned medium. Pharmacological studies employing cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists demonstrated the involvement of CB2 in cannabinoid-mediated inhibition of peritoneal macrophage chemotaxis to RANTES and Acanthamoeba conditioned medium, implying that signaling through cannabinoid receptors may desensitize chemokine receptors. Treatment with cannabinoids had no apparent effect on chemokine receptor mRNA levels, but did enhance CCR5 protein phosphorylation. Macrophage migration to Acanthamoeba conditioned medium may involve activation and signaling through protease activated receptors (PARs), as pathogen-derived proteases have been shown to activate PARs and initiate cellular migration; however, further studies are required to demonstrate PAR activation by amoebic conditioned medium and to assess the effects of cannabinoids on PAR signaling. Acanthamoeba are opportunistic pathogens that cause Granulomatis amoebic encephalitis, an infection of the CNS that is often fatal. THC treatment has been shown to increase mortality to Acanthamoeba infections and is characterized by an absence of granuloma formation. We hypothesize that inhibitory effect of THC on macrophage migration may be a key factor in cannabinoid-mediated immunosuppression. To assess the effect of cannabinoids on microglial migration to Acanthamoeba conditioned medium, chemotaxis assays were performed using primary rat microglia treated with cannabinoids. These studies demonstrated that cannabinoids inhibit microglial chemotaxis to amoebic conditioned medium. Furthermore, the studies demonstrate that cannabinoids, acting through cannabinoid receptors, may cross-talk with a diverse array G-protein coupled receptors so as to modulate responsiveness of macrophage and macrophage-like cells.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008