The biosynthesis, fate and pharmacological properties of endocannabinoids

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005;(168):147-85. doi: 10.1007/3-540-26573-2_5.


The finding of endogenous ligands for cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids, opened a new era in cannabinoid research. It meant that the biological role of cannabinoid signalling could be finally studied by investigating not only the pharmacological actions subsequent to stimulation of cannabinoid receptors by their agonists, but also how the activity of these receptors was regulated under physiological and pathological conditions by varying levels of the endocannabinoids. This in turn meant that the enzymes catalysing endocannabinoid biosynthesis and inactivation had to be identified and characterized, and that selective inhibitors of these enzymes had to be developed to be used as (1) probes to confirm endocannabinoid involvement in health and disease, and (2) templates for the design of new therapeutic drugs. This chapter summarizes the progress achieved in this direction during the 12 years following the discovery of the first endocannabinoid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / analysis
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Methylation
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Dronabinol