Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most frequent primary brain tumor entity with poor prognosis and resistance to current standard therapies. Cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are discussed as promising compounds for individualized treatment, as they exert anti-tumor effects by binding to cannabinoid-specific receptors. However, their pharmacology is highly diverse and complex. The present study was designed to verify (1) whether cannabinoids show even any effect in GBM cells derived from primary human tumor samples and (2) to identify the receptor responsible for those effects. Our findings revealed that THC reduces the number of Ki67 immunoreactive nuclei, a cell cycle marker through the orphan cannabinoid receptor GPR55. The data suggest a therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in those GBM with functional and responsive GPR55.
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most frequent malignant tumor of the central nervous system in humans with a median survival time of less than 15 months. ∆ 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the best-characterized components of Cannabis sativa plants with modulating effects on cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB 1 and CB 2) and on orphan receptors such as GPR18 or GPR55. Previous studies have demonstrated anti-tumorigenic effects of THC and CBD in several tumor entities including GBM, mostly mediated via CB 1 or CB 2. In this study, we investigated the non-CB 1/CB 2 effects of THC on the cell cycle of GBM cells isolated from human tumor samples. Cell cycle entry was measured after 24 h upon exposure by immunocytochemical analysis of Ki67 as proliferation marker. The Ki67-reducing effect of THC was abolished in the presence of CBD, whereas CBD alone did not cause any changes. To identify the responsible receptor for THC effects, we first characterized the cells regarding their expression of different cannabinoid receptors: CB 1, CB 2, GPR18, and GPR55. Secondly, the receptors were pharmacologically blocked by application of their selective antagonists AM281, AM630, O-1918, and CID16020046 (CID), respectively. All examined cells expressed the receptors, but only in presence of the GPR55 antagonist CID was the THC effect diminished. Stimulation with the GPR55 agonist lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI) revealed similar effects as obtained for THC. The LPI effects were also inhibited by CBD and CID, confirming a participation of GPR55 and suggesting its involvement in modifying the cell cycle of patient-derived GBM cells.