Depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition (DSI) is a form of short-term plasticity of GABAergic synaptic transmission that is found in cerebellar Purkinje cells and hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells. DSI involves the release of a calcium-dependent retrograde messenger by the somatodendritic compartment of the postsynaptic cell. Both glutamate and endogenous cannabinoids have been proposed as retrograde messenger. Here we show that, in cerebellar parasagittal slices, type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are expressed at high levels in axons of GABAergic interneurons and in presynaptic terminals onto Purkinje cells. Application of the cannabinoid antagonist AM-251 (500 nm) leads to the abolition of the DSI of evoked currents (eIPSCs) recorded in paired recordings and to a strong reduction of the DSI of TTX-insensitive miniature events (mIPSCs) recorded from Purkinje cells. Furthermore, the CB1R agonist WIN 55-212,2 (5 microm) induces a presynaptic inhibition of synaptic currents similar to that occurring during DSI, as well as an occlusion of DSI after stimulation of Purkinje cells. Moreover, WIN 55-212,2 reduces the calcium transients evoked in presumed presynaptic varicosities by short trains of action potentials. Our results indicate that DSI is mediated by the activation of presynaptic CB1Rs and that an endogenous cannabinoid is a likely candidate retrograde messenger in this preparation. They further suggest that DSI involves distinct presynaptic modifications for eIPSCs and mIPSCs, including an inhibition of action potential-evoked calcium rises.