Cannabinoid CB1 receptors and ligands in vertebrate retina: localization and function of an endogenous signaling system

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Dec 7;96(25):14565-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.96.25.14565.


CB1, a cannabinoid receptor enriched in neuronal tissue, was found in high concentration in retinas of rhesus monkey, mouse, rat, chick, goldfish, and tiger salamander by using a subtype-specific polyclonal antibody. Immunolabeling was detected in the two synaptic layers of the retina, the inner and outer plexiform layers, of all six species examined. In the outer plexiform layer, CB1 was located in and/or on cone pedicles and rod spherules. Labeling was detected in some amacrine cells of all species and in the ganglion cells and ganglion cell axons of all species except fish. In addition, sparse labeling was found in the inner and/or outer segments of the photoreceptors of monkey, mouse, rat, and chick. Using GC/MS to detect possible endogenous cannabinoids, we found 3 nmol of 2-arachidonylglycerol per g of tissue, but no anandamide was detectable. Cannabinoid receptor agonists induced a dramatic reduction in the amplitude of voltage-gated L-type calcium channel currents in identified retinal bipolar cells. The presence and distribution of the CB1 receptor, the large amounts of 2-arachidonylglycerol found, and the effects of cannabinoids on calcium channel activity in bipolar cells suggest a substantive role for an endogenous cannabinoid signaling system in retinal physiology, and perhaps vision in general.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / physiology
  • Chickens
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Photoreceptor Cells / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / analysis*
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology
  • Retina / chemistry*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Urodela


  • Calcium Channels, L-Type
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug