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Cannabinoid receptor agonists are mitochondrial inhibitors: A unified hypothesis of how cannabinoids modulate mitochondrial function and induce cell death


Athanasiou, A.., Clarke, A.B., Turner, A.E., Kumaran, N.M., Vakilpour,S., Smith, P.A., Bagiokou,D., Bradshaw, T.D., Westwell, A.D., Fang, L., Lobo, D..N., Constantinescu, C.S., Calabrese,V., Loesch, A., Alexander, S.P.H., Clothier, R.H., Kendall, D.A. and . Bates, T.E

Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 364, 131-137 (2007).

Time-lapse microscopy of human lung cancer (H460) cells showed that the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide (AEA), the phyto-cannabinoid Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a synthetic cannabinoid HU 210 all caused morphological changes characteristic of apoptosis. Janus green assays of H460 cell viability showed that AEA and THC caused significant increases in OD 595 nm at lower concentrations (10–50 μM) and significant decreases at 100 μM, whilst HU 210 caused significant decreases at all concentrations. In rat heart mitochondria, all three ligands caused significant decreases in oxygen consumption and mitochondrial membrane potential. THC and HU 210 caused significant increases in mitochondrial hydrogen peroxide production, whereas AEA was without significant effect. All three ligands induced biphasic changes in either mitochondrial complex I activity and/or mitochondrial complex II–III activity. These data demonstrate that AEA, THC, and HU 210 are all able to cause changes in integrated mitochondrial function, directly, in the absence of cannabinoid receptors.