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Early flow cytometry studies revealed T cell activation in major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is characterised by activation of the immune-inflammatory response system (IRS) and the compensatory immunoregulatory system (CIRS), including deficits in T regulatory (Treg) cells. This study examines the number of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2) receptor-bearing T/B lymphocytes in MDD, and the effects of in vitro cannabidiol (CBD) administration on CB1/CB2-bearing immunocytes. Using flow cytometry, we determined the percentage of CD20+CB2+, CD3+CB2+, CD4+CB2+, CD8+CB2+ and FoxP3+CB1+ cells in 19 healthy controls and 29 MDD patients in 5 conditions: baseline, stimulation with anti-CD3/CD28 with or without 0.1 µg/mL, 1.0 µg/mL, or 10.0 µg/mL CBD. CB2+ was significantly higher in CD20+ than CD3+ and CD4+ and CD 8+ cells. Stimulation with anti-CD3/CD8 increases the number of CB2-bearing CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ cells, as well as CB1-bearing FoxP3+ cells. There was an inverse association between the number of reduced CD4+ CB2+ and IRS profiles, including M1 macrophage, T helper-(Th)-1 and Th-17 phenotypes. MDD is characterised by lowered basal FoxP3+ CB1+% and higher CD20+ CB2+%. 33.2% of the variance in the depression phenome (including severity of depression, anxiety and current suicidal behaviours) is explained by CD20+ CB2+ % (positively) and CD3+ CB2+% (inversely). All five immune cell populations were significantly increased by 10 µg/mL of CBD administration. Reductions in FoxP3+ CB1+% and CD3+ /CD4+ CB2+% contribute to deficits in immune homoeostasis in MDD, while increased CD20+CB2+% may contribute to the pathophysiology of MDD by activating T-independent humoral immunity.
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