Cannabinoid Signalling in Immune-Reproductive Crosstalk during Human Pregnancy
Despite the intricate involvement of the endocannabinoid system in various physiological processes, it remains one of the most under-studied biological systems of the human body. The scope of endocannabinoid signalling is widespread, ranging from modulation of immune responses in innate and adaptive immunity to gestational processes in female physiology. Cannabinoid receptors are ubiquitously distributed in reproductive tissues and are thought to play a role in regulating the immune-reproductive interactions required for successful pregnancy, specifically among uterine natural killer cells and placental extravillous trophoblasts. The use of cannabis during pregnancy, however, can perturb endocannabinoid homeostasis through effects mediated by its major constituents, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Decidualization of the endometrium, invasion, and angiogenesis may be impaired as a consequence, leading to clinical complications such as miscarriage and preeclampsia. In this review, the crosstalk between endocannabinoid signalling in uterine natural killer cells and placental extravillous trophoblasts will be examined in healthy and complicated pregnancies. This lays a foundation for discussing the potential of targeting the endocannabinoid system for therapeutic benefit, particularly with regard to the emerging field of synthetic cannabinoids.
Keywords: Delta9-THC; endocannabinoid system; extravillous trophoblasts; female reproduction; inflammation; pregnancy; uterine natural killer cells.