Metabolism of the Endocannabinoid Anandamide: Open Questions after 25 Years

Front Mol Neurosci. 2017 May 29;10:166. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2017.00166. eCollection 2017.


Cannabis extracts have been used for centuries, but its main active principle ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was identified about 50 years ago. Yet, it is only 25 years ago that the first endogenous ligand of the same receptors engaged by the cannabis agents was discovered. This "endocannabinoid (eCB)" was identified as N-arachidonoylethanolamine (or anandamide (AEA)), and was shown to have several receptors, metabolic enzymes and transporters that altogether drive its biological activity. Here I report on the latest advances about AEA metabolism, with the aim of focusing open questions still awaiting an answer for a deeper understanding of AEA activity, and for translating AEA-based drugs into novel therapeutics for human diseases.

Keywords: biosynthesis; hydrolysis; signal transduction; storage; trafficking; transport.

Publication types

  • Review