Marijuana cannabinoids such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have been shown in experimental systems to bias T helper immunity towards Th2 and away from Th1. This effect if broadly applicable to humans could have important implications in Th2-mediated diseases such as allergy. In the current study, we examined the effect of cannabinoids on serum immunoglobulin IgE levels in immunized mice and also examined the role of cannabinoid receptors in the response. The method involved pre-injecting mice with cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists followed 18–24 hours later with an immunizing injection with two different antigen/adjuvant combinations. This treatment was followed 2–3 weeks later with a booster injection of antigen and the subsequent bleeding of mice 1–2 weeks later for serum immunoglobulin analysis by ELISA. Our results showed that THC injection enhanced total IgE serum levels in response to antigen immunization even under conditions of deficient cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) and cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) activity and furthermore the increase in IgE was accompanied by a decrease in serum IgG2a. In addition, we observed that l-α-lysophosphatidyliniositol (LPI) increased serum IgE levels and that IgE levels were higher in CB2 deficient mice and suppressed by the CB2 agonist, Gp1a. These results suggest that in this IgE induction model in mice, non-selective cannabinoids such as THC increase IgE through receptors other than CB1 and CB2 but that CB2 receptors do play a suppressive role in the control of serum IgE levels.
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