Cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous agonists

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 1998:38:179-200. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.38.1.179.


Marijuana has been in use for over 4000 years as a therapeutic and as a recreational drug. Within the past decade, two cannabinoid receptor types have been identified, their signal transduction characterized, and an endogenous lipid agonist isolated from mammalian tissues. The CB1 cannabinoid receptor is widely distributed in mammalian tissues, with the highest concentrations found in brain neurons. CB1 receptors are coupled to modulation of adenylate cyclase and ion channels. The CB2 receptor is found in cells of the immune system and is coupled to inhibition of adenylate cyclase. Both receptor types selectively bind delta 9-THC, the active principle in marijuana, and anandamide (arachidonylethanolamide), an endogenous cannabimimetic eicosanoid. Progress is being made in the development of novel agonists and antagonists with receptor subtype selectivity, mice with genetic deletion of the cannabinoid receptors, and receptor-specific antibodies, which should help in providing a better understanding of the physiological role of the cannabinoid receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug