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Mitofusin 2 confers the suppression of microglial activation by cannabidiol: Insights from in vitro and in vivo models

Li, M;Xu, B;Li, X;Li, Y;Qiu, S;Chen, K;Liu, Z;Ding, Y;Wang, H;Xu, J;Wang, H;

Currently, there is increasing attention on the regulatory effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on the inflammatory response and the immune system. However, the mechanisms have not yet been completely revealed. Mitofusin 2 (Mfn2) is a mitochondrial fusion protein involved in the inflammatory response. Here, we investigated whether Mfn2 confers the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. We found that treatment with CBD decreased the levels of tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin 6, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule-1 (Iba1) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-challenged microglia. CBD also significantly suppressed the increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the decline of mitochondrial membrane potential in BV-2 cells subjected to LPS. Interestingly, CBD treatment increased the expression of Mfn2, while knockdown of Mfn2 blocked the effect of CBD. By contrast, overexpression of Mfn2 reversed the increase in the levels of iNOS, COX-2, and Iba1 induced by Mfn2 small interfering RNA. In mice challenged with LPS, we found that CBD ameliorated the anxiety responses and cognitive deficits, increased the level of Mfn2, and decreased the expression of Iba1. Since neuro-inflammation and microglial activation are the common events that are observed in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model of multiple sclerosis, we treated EAE mice with CBD. Mice that received CBD showed amelioration of clinical signs, reduced inflammatory response, and increased myelin basic protein level. Most importantly, the adeno-associated virus delivery of short hairpin RNA against Mfn2 reversed the protective effects of CBD. Altogether, these results indicate that Mfn2 is an essential immunomodulator conferring the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. Our results also shed new light on the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of CBD against inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis.