Biased agonism and biased allosteric modulation at the CB1 cannabinoid receptors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


CB1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are attractive therapeutic targets for numerous central nervous system disorders. However, clinical application of cannabinoid ligands has been hampered owing to their adverse on-target effects. Ligand-biased signaling from, and allosteric modulation of, CB1Rs offer pharmacological approaches that may enable the development of improved CB1R drugs, through modulation of only therapeutically desirable CB1R signaling pathways. There is growing evidence that CB1Rs are subject to ligand-biased signaling and allosterism. Therefore, in the present study, we quantified ligand-biased signaling and allosteric modulation at CB1Rs. Cannabinoid agonists displayed distinct biased signaling profiles at CB1Rs. For instance, whereas 2-arachidonylglycerol and WIN55,212-2 [(R)-(+)-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-(4-morpholinylmethyl)pyrrolo[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazin-6-yl]-1-napthalenylmethanone] showed little preference for inhibition of cAMP and phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (pERK1/2), N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide), methanandamide, CP55940 [2-[(1R,2R,5R)-5-hydroxy-2-(3-hydroxy propyl)cyclohexyl]-5-(2-methyloctan-2-yl)phenol], and HU-210 [11-hydroxy-Δ8 -THC-dimethylheptyl] were biased toward cAMP inhibition. The small-molecule allosteric modulator Org27569 [5-chloro-3-ethyl-1H-indole-2-carboxylic acid [2-(4-piperidin-1-yl-phenyl)ethyl]amide] displayed biased allosteric effects by blocking cAMP inhibition mediated by all cannabinoid ligands tested, at the same time having little or no effect on ERK1/2 phosphorylation mediated by a subset of these ligands. Org27569 also displayed negative binding cooperativity with [3H]SR141716A [5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichloro-phenyl)-4-methyl-N-(piperidin-1-yl)-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide]; however, it had minimal effects on binding of cannabinoid agonists. Furthermore, we highlight the need to validate the reported allosteric effects of the endogenous ligands lipoxin A4 and pregnenolone at CB1Rs. Pregnenolone but not lipoxin A4 displaced [3H]SR141716A, but there was no functional interaction between either of these ligands and cannabinoid agonists. This study demonstrates an approach to validating and quantifying ligand-biased signaling and allosteric modulation at CB1Rs, revealing ligand-biased "fingerprints" that may ultimately allow the development of improved CB1R-targeted therapies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-379
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this