Neuropathic pain associated with nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), therapeutic agents for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), responds poorly to available drugs. Smoked cannabis was reported to relieve HIV-associated neuropathic pain in clinical trials. Some constituents of cannabis (Cannabis sativa
) activate cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors. However, activation of the CB1 receptor is associated with side effects such as psychosis and physical dependence. Therefore, we investigated the effect of β-caryophyllene (BCP), a CB2-selective phytocannabinoid, in a model of NRTI-induced neuropathic pain. Female BALB/c mice treated with 2′-3′-dideoxycytidine (ddC, zalcitabine), a NRTI, for 5 days developed mechanical allodynia, which was prevented by cotreatment with BCP, minocycline or pentoxifylline. A CB2 receptor antagonist (AM 630), but not a CB1 receptor antagonist (AM 251), antagonized BCP attenuation of established ddC-induced mechanical allodynia. β-Caryophyllene prevented the ddC-induced increase in cytokine (interleukin 1 beta, tumor necrosis factor alpha and interferon gamma) transcripts in the paw skin and brain, as well as the phosphorylation level of Erk1/2 in the brain. In conclusion, BCP prevents NRTI-induced mechanical allodynia, possibly via reducing the inflammatory response, and attenuates mechanical allodynia through CB2 receptor activation. Therefore, BCP could be useful for prevention and treatment of antiretroviral-induced neuropathic pain.
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