Cannabinoid receptor 2 agonist promotes parameters implicated in mucosal healing in patients with inflammatory bowel disease

Shelly Tartakover Matalon*, Yehuda Ringel, Fred Konikoff, Liat Drucker, Shaul Pery, Timna Naftali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cannabis benefits patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Cannabinoid receptors are expressed in gut immune cells and in epithelial cells of inflamed guts. Mucosal healing (MH) requires epithelial layer restoration. Objective: To analyze the effects of CB2 agonist on parameters implicated in gut inflammation and MH. Methods: Mucosal samples from areas of inflamed/uninflamed colon from 16 patients with IBD were cultured without/with cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) agonist (JWH-133, 10 µM, 6 hours (hr)), and analyzed for epithelial/stromal cell proliferation, apoptosis (secretome matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9) activity, which impairs epithelial permeability) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) levels (n = 5–9). In addition, Caco-2 (colon carcinoma epithelial cells) were cultured with biopsy secretomes (48 hr), and analyzed for phenotype and protein markers of proliferation (proliferating cell nuclear antigen), autophagy (LC3IIB) and permeability (Zonula occludens-1) (n = 4–6). Results: Uninflamed tissue had higher epithelial proliferation (Ki67: 50%↑, p < 0.05), and reduced secretome MMP9 activity and IL-8 levels (>50%↓, p < 0.05) compared to inflamed tissue. Treatment with CB2 agonist had no effect on epithelial apoptosis, but increased epithelial Ki67 expression (25%), and reduced secretome MMP9 and IL-8 levels in inflamed biopsies. Secretomes of CB2-treated biopsies increased Caco-2 number, migration, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and LC3IIB expression (all, p < 0.05), but had no effect on ZO-1. Conclusion: Using ex vivo and in vitro human models, we demonstrated that manipulating the cannabinoid system affects colon cells and secretome characteristics that facilitate MH in IBD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-283
Number of pages13
JournalUnited European Gastroenterology Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • cannabinoid receptor 2
  • colon biopsy culture
  • colon epithelial cells
  • mucosal healing


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