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Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Apr;30 Suppl 1:S33-8.

The role of the endocannabinoid system in the control of energy homeostasis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Physiologic Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-9413, USA.


The endocannabinoid system has recently emerged as an important regulator of energy homeostasis, involved in the control of both appetite and peripheral fat metabolism. We briefly review current understanding of the possible sites of action and cellular mechanisms involved in the central appetitive and peripheral metabolic effects of endocannabinoids. Studies in our laboratory, using leptin-deficient obese rodents and CB1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1)-deficient mice, have indicated that endocannabinoids acting via CB1 are involved in the hunger-induced increase in food intake and are negatively regulated by leptin in brain areas involved in appetite control, including the hypothalamus, limbic forebrain and amygdala. CB1-/- mice are lean and are resistant to diet-induced obesity (DIO) despite similar energy intake to wild-type mice with DIO, suggesting that CB1 regulation of body weight involves additional peripheral targets. Such targets appear to include both adipose tissue and the liver. CB1 expressed in adipocytes has been implicated in the control of adiponectin secretion and lipoprotein lipase activity. Recent findings indicate that both endocannabinoids and CB1 are present in the liver and are upregulated in DIO. CB1 stimulation increases de novo hepatic lipogenesis through activation of the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway. Components of this pathway are also expressed in the hypothalamus where they have been implicated in the regulation of appetite. The fatty acid biosynthetic pathway may thus represent a common molecular target for the central appetitive and peripheral metabolic effects of endocannabinoids.

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