Endocannabinoids as regulators of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels: A further opportunity to develop new endocannabinoid-based therapeutic drugs

Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(14):1430-49. doi: 10.2174/092986710790980078.


In the late 1990's, a series of experiments carried out independently in two laboratories led to establish an important connection between the function of the endocannabinoids, which, as exemplified in this special issue, is per se very complex and ubiquitous in animals, and that of the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, a large family of plasma membrane cation channels involved in several mammalian and non-mammalian physiological and pathological conditions, overlapping only in part with those in which the cannabinoid receptors participate. These experiments were initially based on the observation that the endocannabinoid anandamide and the xenobiotic ligand of TRP channels of V1 type (TRPV1), capsaicin, are somehow chemically similar, both compounds being fatty acid amides, as are also synthetic activators of these channels and inhibitors of anandamide cellular re-uptake. As discussed in this article, the same type of "chemical thoughts" led to the discovery of N-arachidonoyl-dopamine, an endogenous ligand of TRPV1 channels that behaves also an endocannabinoid. The overlap between the ligand recognition properties of some TRP channels and proteins of the endocannabinoid system, namely the cannabinoid receptors and the proteins and enzymes catalyzing anandamide cellular re-uptake and hydrolysis, is being actively explored through the rational design and synthesis of new endocannabinoid-based drugs with multiple mechanisms of action. These aspects are discussed in this review article, together with the possible functional and pharmacological consequences of endocannabinoid-TRP channel interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / chemistry
  • Arachidonic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / chemistry*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / chemistry
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / therapeutic use
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / agonists*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / metabolism


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • anandamide