Multiple endocannabinoid-mediated mechanisms in the regulation of energy homeostasis in brain and peripheral tissues

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2019 Apr;76(7):1341-1363. doi: 10.1007/s00018-018-2994-6. Epub 2019 Jan 1.


The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is widely expressed in many central and peripheral tissues, and is involved in a plethora of physiological processes. Among these, activity of the eCB system promotes energy intake and storage, which, however, under pathophysiological conditions, can favour the development of obesity and obesity-related disorders. It is proposed that eCB signalling is evolutionary beneficial for survival under periods of scarce food resources. Remarkably, eCB signalling is increased both in hunger and in overnutrition conditions, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. This apparent paradox suggests a role of the eCB system both at initiation and at clinical endpoint of obesity. This review will focus on recent findings about the role of the eCB system controlling whole-body metabolism in mice that are genetically modified selectively in different cell types. The current data in fact support the notion that eCB signalling is not only engaged in the development but also in the maintenance of obesity, whereby specific cell types in central and peripheral tissues are key sites in regulating the entire body's energy homeostasis.

Keywords: 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol; Anandamide; Cannabinoid type 1 receptor; Endocannabinoid system; Energy balance; Energy expenditure; Feeding behaviour; Metabolic syndrome; Obesity, Type-2 diabetes; Peripheral CB1 antagonist; Rimonabant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / genetics
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2