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Cannabidiol displays unexpectedly high potency as an antagonist of CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists in vitroC

  1. A Thomas1,*,
  2. G L Baillie1,
  3. A M Phillips1,
  4. R K Razdan2,
  5. R A Ross1 and
  6. R G Pertwee1
  1. School of Medical Sciences, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, UK
  2. Organix Inc., Woburn, MA, USA

*Department of Rheumatology, Molecular Medicine Centre, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK. E-mail:

Publication History

  1. Issue published online: 29 JAN 2009
  2. Article first published online: 29 JAN 2009
  3. (Received August 31, 2006, Revised October 30, 2006, Accepted November 20, 2006)

Article first published online: 29 JAN 2009

DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0707133

Background and purpose:

A nonpsychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant, cannabidiol has been demonstrated to have low affinity for both cannabinoid CB1 and CB2receptors. We have shown previously that cannabidiol can enhance electrically evoked contractions of the mouse vas deferens, suggestive of inverse agonism. We have also shown that cannabidiol can antagonize cannabinoid receptor agonists in this tissue with a greater potency than we would expect from its poor affinity for cannabinoid receptors. This study aimed to investigate whether these properties of cannabidiol extend to CB1 receptors expressed in mouse brain and to human CB2 receptors that have been transfected into CHO cells.

Experimental approach:

The [35S]GTPγS binding assay was used to determine both the efficacy of cannabidiol and the ability of cannabidiol to antagonize cannabinoid receptor agonists (CP55940 and R-(+)-WIN55212) at the mouse CB1 and the human CB2 receptor.

Key results:

This paper reports firstly that cannabidiol displays inverse agonism at the human CB2 receptor. Secondly, we demonstrate that cannabidiol is a high potency antagonist of cannabinoid receptor agonists in mouse brain and in membranes from CHO cells transfected with human CB2receptors.

Conclusions and implications:

This study has provided the first evidence that cannabidiol can display CB2 receptor inverse agonism, an action that appears to be responsible for its antagonism of CP55940 at the human CB2 receptor. The ability of cannabidiol to behave as a CB2 receptor inverse agonist may contribute to its documented anti-inflammatory properties.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2007) 150, 613–623. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707133

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