Research Papers: Immunology:

Up-regulation of immunomodulatory effects of mouse bone-marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells by tetrahydrocannabinol pre-treatment involving cannabinoid receptor CB2

Junran Xie _, Dongju Xiao, Yun Xu, Jinning Zhao, Li Jiang, Xuming Hu, Yaping Zhang and Lina Yu

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:6436-6447. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7042

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Junran Xie1, Dongju Xiao2,3, Yun Xu2,3, Jinning Zhao1, Li Jiang1, Xuming Hu2,3, Yaping Zhang2,3 and Lina Yu4

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China

2 Jiangsu Province Key Laboratory of Anesthesiology, Xuzhou Medical College, Xuzhou, People’s Republic of China

3 Jiangsu Province Key Laboratory of Anesthesia and Analgesia Application Technology, Xuzhou, People’s Republic of China

4 Department of Anesthesiology, Second Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence to:

Lina Yu, email:

Keywords: mesenchymal stem cells, tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabinoid receptor, inflammation, pain, Immunology and Microbiology Section, Immune response, Immunity

Received: October 19, 2015 Accepted: January 19, 2016 Published: January 27, 2016


Chronic pain is commonly and closely correlated with inflammation. Both cannabinoid signaling and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been demonstrated to reduce inflammatory pain. Although cannabinoid signaling is essential for mesenchymal stem cell survival and differentiation, little is known about its role in modulatory effect of MSCs on inflammation and pain sensitivity. Here we showed that mouse bone-marrow derived MSCs (BM-MSCs) expressed both cannabinoid receptor type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). CB2 expression level in BM-MSCs increased with their maturation. In addition, we found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) activated CB2 receptor and ERK signaling, consequently enhancing the modulation of MSCs on inflammation-associated cytokine release from lipopolysaccharides-stimulated microglia. Consistent with in vitro data, THC pretreatment enhanced the immunomodulatory effects of BM-MSC on thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in chronic constriction injury model, by decreasing the release of pro-inflammation cytokines. Our study revealed the crucial role of THC in promoting the immunomodulatory effects of MSCs and proposed a new strategy to alleviate pain based on stem cells therapy.

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