The role of the pancreatic endocannabinoid system in glucose metabolism

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Feb;23(1):87-102. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2008.10.012.


The endogenous cannabinoid system participates in the regulation of energy homeostasis, and this fact led to the identification of a new group of therapeutic agents for complicated obesity and diabetes. Cannabinoid receptor antagonists are now realities in clinical practice. The use of such antagonists for reducing body weight gain, lowering cholesterol and improving glucose homeostasis is based on the ability of the endocannabinoids to coordinately regulate energy homeostasis by interacting with central and peripheral targets, including adipose tissue, muscle, liver and endocrine pancreas. In this review we will analyse the presence of this system in the main cell types of the islets of Langerhans, as well as the physiological relevance of the endocannabinoids and parent acylethanolamides in hormone secretion and glucose homeostasis. We will also analyse the impact that these findings may have in clinical practice and the potential outcome of new therapeutic strategies for modulating glucose homeostasis and insulin/glucagon secretion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology
  • Arachidonic Acids / physiology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacology
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycerides / physiology
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology*
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology


  • Amides
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • Glycerides
  • Insulin
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose
  • anandamide