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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2002 Jun;12(3):324-30.

Retrograde signaling by endocannabinoids.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Ave, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Recent studies suggest that endocannabinoids act as retrograde messengers at many synapses in the central nervous system. Activation of phospholipases, either through calcium-mediated or receptor-mediated signaling, leads to the formation and release of endocannabinoids. These lipophilic signaling molecules diffuse to nearby presynaptic terminals where they bind to specific G-protein-coupled receptors and inhibit neurotransmitter release for tens of seconds. Thus, an important physiological role of endocannabinoids may be to provide a mechanism by which neurons can rapidly regulate the strength of their synaptic inputs.

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