Retrograde signaling by endocannabinoids

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2002 Jun;12(3):324-30. doi: 10.1016/s0959-4388(02)00328-8.


Recent studies suggest that endocannabinoids act as retrograde messengers at many synapses in the central nervous system. Activation of phospholipases, either through calcium-mediated or receptor-mediated signaling, leads to the formation and release of endocannabinoids. These lipophilic signaling molecules diffuse to nearby presynaptic terminals where they bind to specific G-protein-coupled receptors and inhibit neurotransmitter release for tens of seconds. Thus, an important physiological role of endocannabinoids may be to provide a mechanism by which neurons can rapidly regulate the strength of their synaptic inputs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / physiology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glycerides / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glycerides
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • anandamide