The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is thought to participate in developmental processes in the CNS. The rodent retina represents a valuable model to study CNS development because it contains well-identified cell types with established developmental timelines. The distribution of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) was recently revealed in the developing retina; however, the expression patterns of other elements of this system remain unknown. In this study, we investigated the expression pattern of the degradative enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a key regulator of the eCB system, in the rat retina during postnatal development. To identify the cells expressing the enzyme, co-stainings were carried out for FAAH and retinal cell type markers. FAAH was expressed at postnatal day (P) 1 in ganglion and cholinergic amacrine cells. In the course of development, it appeared in cones, horizontal, and bipolar cells. For most cell types (horizontal, cholinergic amacrine cells, and cone bipolar cells), FAAH was transiently expressed, suggesting an important redistribution of the enzyme during postnatal development and thus a potential role of the eCB system in developmental processes. Our results also indicated that, in the adult retina, FAAH is expressed in cones, rod bipolar cells, and some retinal ganglion cells. The presence of FAAH in adult animals supports the hypothesis that the eCB system is involved in retinal functions. Overall these results indicate that, as shown in other structures of the brain, the eCB system could play an instrumental role in the development and function of the retina.
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