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J Neurobiol. 2004 Oct;61(1):149-60.

The endogenous cannabinoid system and its role in nociceptive behavior.

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The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 N. Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The analgesic properties of exogenous cannabinoids have been recognized for many years and suggest a regulatory role for the endogenous cannabinoid ("endocannabinoid") system in mammalian nociceptive pathways. The endocannabinoid system includes: (1) at least two families of lipid signaling molecules, the N-acyl ethanolamines (e.g., anandamide) and the monoacylglycerols (e.g., 2-arachidonoyl glycerol); (2) multiple enzymes involved in the biosynthesis and degradation of these lipids, including the integral membrane enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase; and (3) two G-protein coupled receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are primarily localized to the nervous system and immune system, respectively. Here, we review recent genetic, behavioral, and pharmacological studies that have tested the function of the endocannabinoid system in pain sensation. Collectively, these investigations support a role for endocannabinoids in modulating behavioral responses to acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain stimuli.

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