DAGL-dependent endocannabinoid signalling: roles in axonal pathfinding, synaptic plasticity and adult neurogenesis

Eur J Neurosci. 2011 Nov;34(10):1634-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07831.x.


Until recently, endocannabinoid (eCB) signalling was largely studied in the context of synaptic plasticity in the postnatal brain in the absence of detailed knowledge of the nature of the enzyme(s) responsible for the synthesis of the eCBs. However, the identification of two diacylglycerol lipases (DAGLα and DAGLβ) responsible for the synthesis of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) has increased the understanding of where this eCB is synthesised in relationship to the expression of cannabinoid receptor (CB)1 and CB2. Furthermore, the generation of knockout animals for each enzyme has allowed for the direct testing of their importance for established and emerging eCB functions. Based on this, we now know that DAGLα is enriched in dendritic spines that appose CB1-positive synaptic terminals, and that 2-AG functions as a retrograde signal controlling synaptic strength throughout the nervous system. Consequently, we have built on the principle that expression of eCB components dictates function to identify additional physiological functions of this signalling cassette. A number of studies have now provided support for DAGL-dependent eCB signalling playing important roles in brain development and in cellular plasticity in the adult nervous system. In this article, we will review evidence based on the localisation of the enzymes, as well as from genetic and pharmacological studies, that show DAGL-dependent eCB signalling to play an important role in axonal growth and guidance during development, in retrograde synaptic signalling at mature synapses, and in the control of adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus and subventricular zone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Lipoprotein Lipase / genetics
  • Lipoprotein Lipase / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Isoenzymes
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Lipoprotein Lipase