The effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on NK cell activity were studied. Previously, we reported that incubation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in THC resulted in an inhibition of natural killer (NK) cell activity. The present study examined the mechanism(s) of the decrease in NK cell activity. The inhibition of killing by NK cells was not due to a failure of NK cells to bind to K562 target cells. Furthermore, indomethacin did not abrogate the THC-mediated effect, suggesting that prostaglandins are not involved in the process leading to suppression of NK cell activity. However, NK activity was partially restored if cells, pretreated with THC, were washed to remove excess drug and then incubated overnight in fresh medium before assay. Addition of 1 - 100 U IL-2, either during pretreatment with THC or during overnight incubation, precluded or promoted the reversal of the inhibition of NK cell cytotoxicity. We conclude that the regulatory mechanism(s) involved in depression of NK cell cytotoxicity by THC is significantly influenced by IL-2.
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