Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do

J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 May:20 Suppl 1:10-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x.


The endocannabinoid system consists of the endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), cannabinoid receptors and the enzymes that synthesise and degrade endocannabinoids. Many of the effects of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are mediated by two G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), CB(1) and CB(2), although additional receptors may be involved. CB(1) receptors are present in very high levels in several brain regions and in lower amounts in a more widespread fashion. These receptors mediate many of the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. CB(2) receptors have a more restricted distribution, being found in a number of immune cells and in a few neurones. Both CB(1) and CB(2) couple primarily to inhibitory G proteins and are subject to the same pharmacological influences as other GPCRs. Thus, partial agonism, functional selectivity and inverse agonism all play important roles in determining the cellular response to specific cannabinoid receptor ligands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Drug Inverse Agonism
  • Drug Partial Agonism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoids
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid