Published: PLoS One. 2013 Nov 25;8(11):e80440. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080440. eCollection 2013.
Cannabinoid CB2 receptors regulate central sensitization and pain responses associated with osteoarthritis of the knee joint.
Burston JJ, Sagar DR, Shao P, Bai M, King E, Brailsford L, Turner JM, Hathway GJ, Bennett AJ, Walsh DA, Kendall DA, Lichtman A, Chapman V.
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the joint is a prevalent disease accompanied by chronic, debilitating pain. Recent clinical evidence has demonstrated that central sensitization contributes to OA pain. An improved understanding of how OA joint pathology impacts upon the central processing of pain is crucial for the identification of novel analgesic targets/new therapeutic strategies. Inhibitory cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors attenuate peripheral immune cell function and modulate central neuro-immune responses in models of neurodegeneration. Systemic administration of the CB2 receptor agonist JWH133 attenuated OA-induced pain behaviour, and the changes in circulating pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines exhibited in this model. Electrophysiological studies revealed that spinal administration of JWH133 inhibited noxious-evoked responses of spinal neurones in the model of OA pain, but not in control rats, indicating a novel spinal role of this target. We further demonstrate dynamic changes in spinal CB2 receptor mRNA and protein expression in an OA pain model. The expression of CB2 receptor protein by both neurones and microglia in the spinal cord was significantly increased in the model of OA. Hallmarks of central sensitization, significant spinal astrogliosis and increases in activity of metalloproteases MMP-2 and MMP-9 in the spinal cord were evident in the model of OA pain. Systemic administration of JWH133 attenuated these markers of central sensitization, providing a neurobiological basis for analgesic effects of the CB2 receptor in this model of OA pain. Analysis of human spinal cord revealed a negative correlation between spinal cord CB2 receptor mRNA and macroscopic knee chondropathy. These data provide new clinically relevant evidence that joint damage and spinal CB2 receptor expression are correlated combined with converging pre-clinical evidence that activation of CB2 receptors inhibits central sensitization and its contribution to the manifestation of chronic OA pain. These findings suggest that targeting CB2 receptors may have therapeutic potential for treating OA pain.