Background: Sepsis is a major healthcare problem and current estimates suggest that the incidence of sepsis is approximately 750,000 annually. Sepsis is caused by an inability of the immune system to eliminate invading pathogens. It was recently proposed that endogenous mediators produced during sepsis can contribute to the immune dysfunction that is observed in sepsis. Endocannabinoids that are produced excessively in sepsis are potential factors leading to immune dysfunction, because they suppress immune cell function by binding to G-protein-coupled CB2 receptors on immune cells. Here we examined the role of CB2 receptors in regulating the host's response to sepsis. Methods and Findings: The role of CB2 receptors was studied by subjecting CB2 receptor wild-type and knockout mice to bacterial sepsis induced by cecal ligation and puncture. We report that CB2 receptor inactivation by knockout decreases sepsis-induced mortality, and bacterial translocation into the bloodstream of septic animals. Furthermore, CB2 receptor inactivation decreases kidney and muscle injury, suppresses splenic nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation, and diminishes the production of IL-10, IL-6 and MIP-2. Finally, CB2 receptor deficiency prevents apoptosis in lymphoid organs and augments the number of CD11b+ and CD19+ cells during CLP. Conclusions: Taken together, our results establish for the first time that CB2 receptors are important contributors to septic immune dysfunction and mortality, indicating that CB2 receptors may be therapeutically targeted for the benefit of patients suffering from sepsis.
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