An accumulating body of evidence suggests that endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1, CB2) play a significant role in physiologic and pathologic processes, including cognitive and immune functions. While the addictive properties of marijuana, an extract from the Cannabis plant, are well recognized, there is growing appreciation of the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in multiple pathologic conditions involving chronic inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV-1 infection, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease to name a few), mainly mediated by CB2 activation. Development of CB2 agonists as therapeutic agents has been hampered by the complexity of their intracellular signaling, relative paucity of highly selective compounds and insufficient data regarding end effects in the target cells and organs. This review attempts to summarize recent advances in studies of CB2 activation in the setting of neuroinflammation, immunomodulation and HIV-1 infection.
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