Effects of cannabinoids on energy metabolism

Life Sci. 1999;65(6-7):657-64. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(99)00288-x.


The present review summarizes the recent work carried out by our group on the link between signal transduction pathways and metabolic regulation systems as affected by cannabinoids. In cells such as astrocytes and lymphocytes, which express cannabinoid receptors, physiologically relevant doses of cannabinoids induce a remarkable metabolic stimulation as determined e.g. by enhanced glucose utilization. Studies performed in astrocytes show that the cannabinoid-evoked stimulation of glucose metabolism is independent of adenylyl cyclase inhibition, and seems to rely on the cascade CB1 cannabinoid receptor --> Sphingomyelin breakdown --> Ceramide --> Raf-1 --> Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) --> Glucose utilization. A role for phosphoinositide 3'-kinase in the stimulation of glucose utilization by cannabinoids is also put forward. In addition, ceramide generated upon CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation may enhance ketone body production by astrocytes independently of MAPK. Anandamide has also been shown to exert metabolic effects in hepatocytes, cells that do not express cannabinoid receptors. The biological role of cannabinoids as modulators of metabolism is as yet unclear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Glucose