The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is involved in processes as diverse as control of appetite, perception of pain and the limitation of cancer cell growth and invasion. The enzymes responsible for eCB breakdown are attractive pharmacological targets, and fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitors, which potentiate the levels of the eCB anandamide, are now undergoing pharmaceutical development. 'Drugable' selective inhibitors of monoacylglycerol lipase, a key enzyme regulating the levels of the other main eCB, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, were however not identified until very recently. Their availability has resulted in a large expansion of our knowledge concerning the pharmacological consequences of monoacylglycerol lipase inhibition and hence the role(s) played by the enzyme in the body. In this review, the pharmacology of monoacylglycerol lipase will be discussed, together with an analysis of the therapeutic potential of monoacylglycerol lipase inhibitors as analgesics and anticancer agents.
© 2012 The Author. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.