Effects of cannabinoids on neurotransmission

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005:(168):327-65. doi: 10.1007/3-540-26573-2_11.


The CB1 cannabinoid receptor is widely distributed in the central and peripheral nervous system. Within the neuron, the CB1 receptor is often localised in axon terminals, and its activation leads to inhibition of transmitter release. The consequence is inhibition of neurotransmission via a presynaptic mechanism. Inhibition of glutamatergic, GABAergic, glycinergic, cholinergic, noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmission has been observed in many regions of the central nervous system. In the peripheral nervous system, CB1 receptor-mediated inhibition of adrenergic, cholinergic and sensory neuroeffector transmission has been frequently observed. It is characteristic for the ubiquitous operation of CB1 receptor-mediated presynaptic inhibition that antagonistic components of functional systems (for example, the excitatory and inhibitory inputs of the same neuron) are simultaneously inhibited by cannabinoids. Inhibition of voltage-dependent calcium channels, activation of potassium channels and direct interference with the synaptic vesicle release mechanism are all implicated in the cannabinoid-evoked inhibition of transmitter release. Many presynaptic CB1 receptors are subject to an endogenous tone, i.e. they are constitutively active and/or are continuously activated by endocannabinoids. Compared with the abundant data on presynaptic inhibition by cannabinoids, there are only a few examples for cannabinoid action on the somadendritic parts of neurons in situ.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / analysis
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptors, Presynaptic / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptors, Presynaptic
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine