Cannabinoid receptor expression in HIV encephalitis and HIV-associated neuropathologic comorbidities

M. A. Cosenza-Nashat, A. Bauman, M. L. Zhao, S. Morgello, H. S. Suh, Sunhee C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Aims: Cannabinoids have been proposed for treating various neurodegenerative disorders and as adjunct therapy for HIV+ patients with neurologic sequelae. The expression of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) has been reported in neurodegenerative diseases and in simian immunodeficiency virus encephalitis, yet the receptor expression in the central nervous system of HIV+ individuals is not known. Methods: An anti-CB1 antibody and two anti-CB2 antibodies were employed for immunohistochemistry in the cerebral cortex and white matter of HIV encephalitis (HIVE) and HIV-associated comorbidities, as well as control brains (HIV- and HIV+). Results: By quantitative image analysis, we observed that CB1 was increased in HIVE brains and those with comorbidities, while CB2 was significantly increased in the white matter of HIVE. Morphologically, CB1 was present in neurones, and both CB1 and CB2 were present in meningeal macrophages and subpial glia in all brains. In HIVE, CB1 was found in white matter microglia and perivascular cells, while CB2 was increased in microglia, astrocytes and perivascular macrophages. Double immunofluorescence with cell-specific markers and immunoblots on primary cultured microglia and astrocytes substantiated the glial localization of the cannabinoid receptors and specificity of the antibodies. Conclusions: Our study indicates that cannabinoid receptor expression occurs in glia in HIVE brains, and this may have ramifications for the potential use of cannabinoid ligands in HIV-infected patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-483
Number of pages20
JournalNeuropathology and Applied Neurobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Astrocytes
  • Cannabinoid receptor
  • Human
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia


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