Role of type 2 cannabinoid receptor in bone metabolism
Cannabinoid receptors play an important role in regulating bone mass and bone turnover. Studies in our laboratories have shown that young mice lacking type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CNR1-/-) had increased bone mass and were resistant to ovariectomy-induced bone loss. Other workers have reported that type 2 cannabinoid receptor knockout mice (CNR2-/-) develop age-related osteoporosis. The aim of this PhD thesis was to further investigate the role of CNR2 in bone metabolism in vitro and in vivo, using genetic and pharmacological approaches. This study showed that CNR2-/- mice had normal bone mass and bone turnover at 3 months of age, but following ovariectomy, CNR2-/- mice were partially protected from bone loss, because of a mild defect in osteoclast formation and bone resorption. In keeping with this, studies in vitro showed that RANKL-stimulated bone marrow cultures from CNR2-/- mice had fewer osteoclasts than cultures from wild type littermates. The CNR2-selective antagonist/inverse agonist AM630, inhibited osteoclast formation in wild type bone marrow cultures in vitro and prevented ovariectomy-induced bone loss in wild type mice in vivo. In contrast, osteoclast cultures from CNR2-/- mice were resistant to the inhibitory effects of AM630 at low concentrations and CNR2-/- ovariectomised mice did not respond to its protective effects at low doses, consistent with a CNR2- mediated effect. These results indicate that CNR2 regulates bone loss under conditions of increased bone turnover, such as ovariectomy, by affecting osteoclast differentiation and function. CNR2-deficient mice developed accelerated age-related osteoporosis and by 12 months of age they had a significant reduction in osteoblast numbers and bone formation, whereas osteoclast numbers remained comparable to wild type littermates. In agreement with this, osteoblasts derived from bone marrow of CNR2-/- mice had reduced PTHstimulated alkaline phosphatase activity and ability to form bone nodules, when compared with wild type cultures. The CNR2-selective agonist, HU308, stimulated bone nodule formation in wild type calvarial osteoblast cultures in vitro and reversed ovariectomy-induced bone loss in wild type mice in vivo. HU308 had blunted effects on bone nodule formation in cultures from CNR2-/- mice and no significant effects on ovariectomy-induced bone loss in CNR2-/- mice, indicating a CNR2-mediated effect. These studies demonstrate that CNR2 protects against age-related bone loss by mainly enhancing osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. In conclusion, type 2 cannabinoid receptors protect from bone loss by maintaining bone remodelling at balance. In addition, type 2 cannabinoid receptor agonists show evidence of anabolic activity, whereas antagonists/inverse agonists show evidence of antiosteoclastic activity in vitro and in vivo.