Cannabinoid receptor and N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipase D--evidence for altered expression in multiple sclerosis

Hua Zhang, David A Hilton, C Oliver Hanemann, John Zajicek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabinoids have been shown to have a beneficial effect in both animal models of multiple sclerosis (MS) and human disease, although the mechanisms of action are unclear. We examined expression of the major cannabinoid receptors [(CBRs) cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2)] and a key enzyme involved in synthesis of the endocannabinoid anandamide [N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD)] in autopsy brain samples from patients with MS. CB1 was expressed in neurons, injured axons, oligodendrocytes, macrophages/microglia, some astrocytes, endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and pericytes. CB2 and NAPE-PLD were localized to cerebral endothelial cells, pericytes, smooth muscle cells, astrocytes and macrophages/microglia. NAPE-PLD immunoreactivity was also seen in neurons. Endothelial CB2 expression was greatest in chronic inactive plaques, and in areas was seen in segments of endothelium where the endothelial expression of adhesion molecules (VCAM-1 and ICAM-1) was focally undetectable, and was often expressed in areas of blood-brain barrier damage. Vascular density was increased in chronic active plaques and normal-appearing white matter compared with controls. These data support findings from animal models which suggest a role for the endocannabinoid system in the MS, particularly in the regulation of endothelial leukocyte adhesion and the cellular response to injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-57
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Pathology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Actins
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, CD34
  • Astrocytes
  • Blood Vessels
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Macrophages
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Myelin Basic Protein
  • Phospholipase D
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Plaque, Amyloid
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein


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