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Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jun;2(3):385-97. doi: 10.1586/17474124.2.3.385.

Role of cannabinoid receptors in the control of gastrointestinal motility and perception.

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Neurogastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, INRA, 180 Chemin de Tournefeuille, BP 3, F-31931 Toulouse Cedex 9, France.


The identification of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid CB1 receptors in key areas of the intestinal wall, such as cholinergic neurons, supports a role for cannabinoids in the control of gastrointestinal motility. Activation of CB1 receptors inhibits the peristaltic reflex and slows down gastrointestinal and colonic transit. Endocannabinoids play an important inhibitory role in the control of the occurrence of transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations. Cannabinoid receptor agonists inhibit gastric emptying and intestinal motility in humans. There is strong anatomical support for a role of CB1 receptors in the control of gastrointestinal perception, since these receptors have been identified in key sites of the neuronal circuitry involved in the transmission of visceral pain. Experimental data indicate a visceral antinociceptive action of cannabinoid receptor agonists, which remains to be confirmed in humans.

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