Previous studies have shown that modulation of the receptor-mediated cannabinoid system during neuroinflammation can produce potent neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. However in this context, little is known about how selective activation of the cannabinoid type-2 receptor (CB2R) affects the activated state of the brain endothelium and blood brain barrier (BBB) function. Using human brain tissues and primary human brain endothelial cells (BMVEC) we demonstrate that the CB2R is highly upregulated during inflammatory insult. We then examined whether the CB2R agonists could attenuate inflammatory responses at the BBB using a mouse model of LPS-induced encephalitis and highly selective CB2R agonists. Visualization by intravital microscopy revealed that administration of JWH133 or a novel resorcinol-based compound O-1966, greatly attenuated leukocyte adhesion in surface pial vessels and in deep ascending cortical post-capillary venules. BBB permeability assessments with small and large fluorescent tracers showed that CB2R agonists were effective at preventing barrier leakiness after LPS administration. To determine whether the effects by CB2R agonists on barrier protection are not only due to the CB2R modulation of immune cell function, we tested the agonists in-vitro with barrier forming primary BMVEC. Remarkably, the addition of CB2R agonist increased trans-endothelial electrical resistance and increased the amount of tight junction protein present in membrane fractions. Furthermore, CB2R agonists decreased the induction of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 surface expression in BMVEC exposed to various pro-inflammatory mediators. Together, these results suggest that pharmacological CB2R ligands offer a new strategy for BBB protection during neuroinflammation.
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