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Letters to Nature
Nature 365, 61 - 65 (02 September 1993); doi:10.1038/365061a0

Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids

Sean Munro, Kerrie L. Thomas & Muna Abu-Shaar

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK

THE major active ingredient of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabi-nol (Δ9-THC), has been used as a psychoactive agent for thousands of years. Marijuana, and Δ9-THC, also exert a wide range of other effects including analgesia, anti-inflammation, immunosuppression, anticonvulsion, alleviation of intraocular pressure in glaucoma, and attenuation of vomiting1. The clinical application of cannabinoids has, however, been limited by their psychoactive effects, and this has led to interest in the biochemical bases of their action. Progress stemmed initially from the synthesis of potent derivatives of δ9-THC4,5, and more recently from the cloning of a gene encoding a G-protein-coupled receptor for cannabinoids6. This receptor is expressed in the brain but not in the periphery, except for a low level in testes. It has been proposed that the non-psychoactive effects of cannabinoids are either mediated centrally or through direct interaction with other, non-receptor proteins1,7,8. Here we report the cloning of a receptor for cannabinoids that is not expressed in the brain but rather in macrophages in the marginal zone of spleen.

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