[The endocannabinoid system as a novel target for the treatment of liver fibrosis]

Pathol Biol (Paris). 2008 Feb;56(1):36-8. doi: 10.1016/j.patbio.2007.01.001. Epub 2007 Apr 6.
[Article in French]


The cannabinoid system comprises specific G protein-coupled receptors (CB1 and CB2), exogenous (marijuana-derived cannabinoids) and endogenous (endocannabinoids) ligands, and a machinery dedicated to endocannabinoid synthesis and degradation. Studies over two decades have extensively documented the crucial role of the cannabinoid system in the regulation of a variety of pathophysiological conditions. However, its role in liver pathology has only been recently unravelled, probably given the low expression of CB1 and CB2 in the normal liver. We have recently demonstrated that CB1 and CB2 receptors display opposite effects in the regulation of liver fibrogenesis during chronic liver injury. Indeed, both receptors are up-regulated in the liver of cirrhotic patients, and expressed in liver fibrogenic cells. Moreover, CB1 receptors are profibrogenic and accordingly, the CB1 antagonist rimonabant reduces fibrosis progression in three experimental models. In keeping with these results, daily cannabis smoking is a risk factor for fibrosis progression in patients with chronic hepatitis C. In contrast, CB2 display antifibrogenic effects, by a mechanism involving reduction of liver fibrogenic cell accumulation. These results may offer new perspectives for the treatment of liver fibrosis, combining CB2 agonist and CB1 antagonist therapy.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators*
  • Cannabis / adverse effects
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2