Ligand-receptor signaling with endocannabinoids in preimplantation embryo development and implantation

Chem Phys Lipids. 2000 Nov;108(1-2):211-20. doi: 10.1016/s0009-3084(00)00197-3.


Although adverse effects of cannabinoids on pregnancy have been indicated for many years, the mechanisms by which they exert their actions were not clearly understood. Only recently, molecular and biochemical approaches have led to the identification of two types of cannabinoid receptors, brain-type receptors (CB1-R) and spleen-type receptors (CB2-R), which mediate cannabinoid effects. These findings were followed by the discovery of endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The natural cannabinoids and endocannabinoids exert their effects via cannabinoid receptors and share similar pharmacological and physiological properties. Recent demonstration of expression of functional CB1-R in the preimplantation embryo and synthesis of anandamide in the pregnant uterus of mice suggests that cannabinoid ligand-receptor signaling is operative in the regulation of preimplantation embryo development and implantation. This review describes recent observations and their significance in embryo-uterine interactions during implantation and future research directions in this emerging area of interest.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Embryo Implantation*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Female
  • Ligands
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug