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This article is part of the supplement: 18th Scientific Symposium of the Austrian Pharmacological Society (APHAR)

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The role of CB2 receptor ligands in human eosinophil function

Robert Frei, Eva Sturm and Ákos Heinemann*

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Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria

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BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 2012, 13(Suppl 1):A13  doi:10.1186/2050-6511-13-S1-A13

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:17 September 2012

© 2012 Frei et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Eosinophils play a key role in allergic diseases such as bronchial asthma and atopic dermatitis. A prominent feature of these diseases is the accumulation of eosinophils in inflamed tissue induced by several chemoattractants like prostaglandin (PG) D2 or eotaxins. After the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and investigation of several endogenous and synthetic ligands, evidence has accumulated that cannabinoids, especially CB2 receptor ligands, may play a major role in mediating inflammatory responses. Elevated levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG; a CB1/CB2 agonist) were found in tissues of mouse models of allergic inflammation, suggesting a possible involvement in leukocyte recruitment.


Blood was sampled from healthy volunteers, erythrocytes were removed by dextran sedimentation and polymorphonuclear leukocytes were obtained via Histopaque gradients. For all assays eosinophils were further purified by negative magnetic isolation. Shape change was recorded immediately after stimulation on a FACSCalibur flow cytometer. For chemotaxis assays an AP48 microBoyden chamber was used and migration time was 1h at 37°C. Intracellular Ca2+ levels were analyzed by flow cytometry after treating eosinophils with Fluo-3-AM for 60min at room temperature.


We found that CB2 receptor agonists like the endocannabinoid 2-AG or the synthetic selective agonist JWH-133 significantly increased eosinophil responses in shape change assays induced by PGD2 or eotaxin-1. The observed effects could be abolished by pretreatment with the selective CB2 receptor antagonists SR144528 or AM630. As cytoskeletal changes are required for firm arrest and leukocyte diapedesis, transmigration assays were conducted subsequently, confirming the shape change data as eosinophil migration induced by PGD2 was increased by pretreatment with JWH-133. Calcium flux assays showed Ca2+ mobilization induced by JWH-133 and the tendency to increase PGD2-induced Ca2+ release.


We could show that JWH-133 can influence human eosinophil activation/migration via activation of CB2 receptors as chemoattractant effects were significantly modulated, suggesting a possible pro-inflammatory role in allergic inflammation which may further lead to cannabinoid-based treatment options in allergic inflammatory diseases.


This study was supported by the Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB, grants 14446 and 14263) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, grant P22521).