Endogenous modulators of synaptic transmission: cannabinoid regulation in the supraoptic nucleus

Prog Brain Res. 2008;170:129-36. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(08)00412-3.


The magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic supraoptic nucleus (SON) are a major source of both systemic and central release of the neurohypophyseal peptides, oxytocin (OXT) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP). Both OXT and AVP are released from the somatodendritic compartment of magnocellular neurons and act within the SON to modulate the electrophysiological function of these cells. Cannabinoids (CBs) affect hormonal output and the SON may represent a neural substrate through which CBs exert specific physiological and behavioural effects. Dynamic modulation of synaptic inputs is a fundamental mechanism through which neuronal output is controlled. Dendritically released OXT acts on autoreceptors to generate endocannabinoids (eCBs) which modify both excitatory and inhibitory inputs to OXT neurons through actions on presynaptic CB receptors. As such, OXT and eCBs cooperate to shape the electrophysiological properties of magnocellular OXT neurons, regulating the physiological function of this nucleus. Further study of eCB signalling in the SON, including its interaction with AVP neurons, promises to extend our understanding of the synaptic regulation of SON physiological function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism
  • Body Fluids / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / physiology*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / physiology
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Oxytocin