Although cannabinoids, such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, have been studied extensively for their psychoactive effects, it has become apparent that certain cannabinoids possess immunomodulatory activity. Endothelial cells (ECs) are centrally involved in the pathogenesis of organ injury in acute inflammatory disorders, such as sepsis, because they express cytokines and chemokines, which facilitate the trafficking of leukocytes to organs, and they modulate vascular barrier function. In this study, we find that primary human ECs from multiple organs express the cannabinoid receptors CB1R, GPR18, and GPR55, as well as the ion channel transient receptor potential cation channel vanilloid type 1. In contrast to leukocytes, CB2R is only minimally expressed in some EC populations. Furthermore, we show that ECs express all of the known endocannabinoid (eCB) metabolic enzymes. Examining a panel of cannabinoids, we demonstrate that the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 and the eCB N-arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA), but neither anandamide nor 2-arachidonoylglycerol, reduce EC inflammatory responses induced by bacterial lipopeptide, LPS, and TNFα. We find that endothelial CB1R/CB2R are necessary for the effects of NADA, but not those of WIN55,212-2. Furthermore, transient receptor potential cation channel vanilloid type 1 appears to counter the anti-inflammatory properties of WIN55,212-2 and NADA, but conversely, in the absence of these cannabinoids, its inhibition exacerbates the inflammatory response in ECs activated with LPS. These data indicate that the eCB system can modulate inflammatory activation of the endothelium and may have important implications for a variety of acute inflammatory disorders that are characterized by EC activation.
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