“The major psychoactive cannabinoid compound of marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to modulate immune responses and lymphocyte function. After primary infection the viral DNA genome of gamma herpesviruses persists in lymphoid cell nuclei in a latent episomal circular form. In response to extracellular signals, the latent virus can be activated, which leads to production of infectious virus progeny. Therefore, we evaluated the potential effects of THC on gamma herpesvirus replication.
THC specifically targets viral and/or cellular mechanisms required for replication and possibly shared by these gamma herpesviruses, and the endocannabinoid system is possibly involved in regulating gamma herpesvirus latency and lytic replication. The immediate early gene ORF 50 promoter activity was specifically inhibited by THC. These studies may also provide the foundation for the development of antiviral strategies utilizing non-psychoactive derivatives of THC.