The fatty acid amide anandamide produces hypotension and a decrease in systemic vascular resistance in vivo. A drop in blood pressure is also seen with synthetic cannabinoid (CB) receptor agonists. The hypotensive responses to anandamide and synthetic cannabinoids are absent in CB1 receptor gene knockout mice. In isolated arteries and perfused vascular beds, anandamide induces vasodilator responses, which cannot be mimicked by synthetic cannabinoids. Instead, vanilloid receptors on perivascular sensory nerves play a key role in these effects of anandamide. Activation of vanilloid receptors by anandamide triggers the release of sensory neuropeptides such as the vasodilator calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Anandamide is detected in blood and in many cells of the cardiovascular system, and macrophage-derived anandamide may be involved in several hypotensive clinical conditions. Interestingly, cannabinoid and vanilloid receptors display an overlap in ligand recognition properties, and the frequently used CB1 receptor antagonist SR141716A also inhibits vanilloid receptor-mediated responses. The presence of anandamide in endothelial cells, neurones and activated macrophages (monocytes), and its ability to activate CB and vanilloid receptors make this lipid a potential bioregulator in the cardiovascular system.
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