The anticonvulsant effect of cannabinoids has been shown to be mediated through activation of the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor. This study was initiated to evaluate the effects of endogenously occurring cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) on seizure severity and threshold. The anticonvulsant effect of the endocannabinoid, arachidonylethanolamine (anandamide), was evaluated in the maximal electroshock seizure model using male CF-1 mice and was found to be a fully efficacious anticonvulsant (ED(50)=50 mg/kg i.p.). The metabolically stable analog of anandamide, (R)-(20-cyano-16,16-dimetyldocosa-cis-5,8,11,14-tetraenoyl)-1'-hydroxy-2'-propylamine (O-1812), was also determined to be a potent anticonvulsant in the maximal electroshock model (ED(50)=1.5 mg/kg i.p.). Furthermore, pretreatment with the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor specific antagonist N-(piperidin-1-yl-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamidehydrochloride (SR141716A) completely abolished the anticonvulsant effect of anandamide as well as O-1812 (P< or =0.01, Fisher exact test), indicating a cannabinoid CB(1) receptor-mediated anticonvulsant mechanism for both endocannabinoid compounds. Additionally, the influence of cannabinoid CB(1) receptor endogenous tone on maximal seizure threshold was assessed using SR141716A alone. Our data show that SR141716A (10 mg/kg i.p.) significantly reduced maximal seizure threshold (CC(50)=14.27 mA) compared to vehicle-treated animals (CC(50)=17.57 mA) (potency ratio=1.23, lower confidence limit=1.06, upper confidence limit=1.43), indicating the presence of an endogenous cannabinoid tone that modulates seizure activity. These data demonstrate that anandamide and its analog, O-1812, are anticonvulsant in a whole animal model and further implicate the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor as a major endogenous site of seizure modulation.