The endocannabinoid system: a general view and latest additions

Br J Pharmacol. 2004 Mar;141(5):765-74. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0705666. Epub 2004 Jan 26.


After the discovery, in the early 1990s, of specific G-protein-coupled receptors for marijuana's psychoactive principle Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, the cannabinoid receptors, and of their endogenous agonists, the endocannabinoids, a decade of investigations has greatly enlarged our understanding of this altogether new signalling system. Yet, while the finding of the endocannabinoids resulted in a new effort to reveal the mechanisms regulating their levels in the brain and peripheral organs under physiological and pathological conditions, more endogenous substances with a similar action, and more molecular targets for the previously discovered endogenous ligands, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or for some of their metabolites, were being proposed. As the scenario becomes subsequently more complicated, and the experimental tasks to be accomplished correspondingly more numerous, we briefly review in this article the latest 'additions' to the endocannabinoid system together with earlier breakthroughs that have contributed to our present knowledge of the biochemistry and pharmacology of the endocannabinoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / chemistry*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid