The endocannabinoid system and its therapeutic implications in rheumatoid arthritis

Huan Gui, Qiang Tong, Wenchun Qu, Chen Mei Mao, Sheng Ming Dai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Abstract Since the discovery of the endogenous receptor for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a main constituent of marijuana, the endocannabinoid system (comprising cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands, as well as the enzymes involved in their metabolic processes) has been implicated as having multiple regulatory functions in many central and peripheral conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease that is associated with the involvement of many kinds of cells (such as fibroblastlike synoviocytes [FLSs], osteoclasts, T cells, B cells, and macrophages) and molecules (such as interleukin-1β, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-6, matrix metalloproteinases [MMPs], and chemokines). Increasing evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system, especially cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), has an important role in the pathophysiology of RA. Many members of the endocannabinoid system are reported to inhibit synovial inflammation, hyperplasia, and cartilage destruction in RA. In particular, specific activation of CB2 may relieve RA by inhibiting not only the production of autoantibodies, proinflammatory cytokines, and MMPs, but also bone erosion, immune response mediated by T cells, and the proliferation of FLSs. In this review, we will discuss the possible functions of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of RA, which may be a potential target for treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3589
Pages (from-to)86-91
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Immunopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2015


  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Drug therapy
  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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