Thirty years ago, the discovery of a cannabinoid (CB) receptor that interacts with the psychoactive compound in Cannabis led to the identification of anandamide, an endogenous receptor ligand or endocannabinoid. Research on endocannabinoids has since exploded, and additional receptors along with their lipid mediators and signaling pathways continue to be revealed. Specifically, in humans, the release of endocannabinoids from membrane lipids occurs on demand and the signaling process is rapidly attenuated by the breakdown of the ligand suggesting a tight regulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Additionally, the varying distribution of CB receptors between the central nervous system and other tissues allows for the ECS to participate in a wide range of cognitive and physiological processes. Select plant-derived ‘phyto’cannabinoids such as Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) bind to the CB receptors and trigger the ECS, and in the case of Δ9-THC, while it has therapeutic value, can also produce detrimental effects. Current research is aimed at the identification of additional phytocannabinoids with minimal psychotropic effects with potential for therapeutic development. Although decades of research on the ECS and its components have expanded our understanding of the mechanisms and implications of endocannabinoid signaling in mammals, it continues to evolve. Here, we provide a brief overview of the ECS and its overlap with other related lipid-mediated signaling pathways.
Keywords: 2-arachidonylglycerol, Cannabis sativa, G-protein-coupled receptors, anandamide, cannabinoid receptors, fatty acid amide hydrolase
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.
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