Effects of Marijuana on Human Natural Killer Cell Activity

  • Steven Specter
  • Gerald Lancz
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 288)


Marijuana and its major psychoactive component delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were first reported to depress various immune functions in humans as early as the mid 1970’s. (Reviewed in 1). However, these studies yielded conflicting data necessitating further investigations. Recent studies by Friedman and co-workers confirmed the immune suppressive effects of THC in mice using in vivo and in vitro experimental models (2–5). Klein et al. (6) reported depression of murine natural killer (NK) cell function in mice following in vitro exposure to THC while Patel et al. (7) demonstrated inhibition of rat NK cell cytotoxicity. A re-examination of responses of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) following exposure to THC in vitro indicates that lymphocyte blastogenesis (8), monocyte/macrophage spreading on plastic surfaces and phagocytosis (1) and NK cell activity (9,10) all are diminished in the presence of the drug.


Natural Killer Cell Activity Phorbol Myristate Acetate Natural Killer Activity Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity Lymphocyte Blastogenesis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Specter
    • 1
  • Gerald Lancz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical Microbiology and ImmunologyUniversity of South Florida College of MedicineTampaUSA

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