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Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2013 Apr-May;102-103:13-30. doi: 10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2013.02.002. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

Endogenous cannabinoids revisited: a biochemistry perspective.

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Laboratório de Bioquímica, Departamento Ciências Biológicas, Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade do Porto (FFUP), Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular da Universidade do Porto (IBMC), Porto, Portugal.


Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug, particularly in Western societies. The discovery of an endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) highlighted new molecules in various physiological processes. The ECS consists of G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors that can be activated by small lipid mediators, termed endocannabinoids (eCBs) and cannabis-derived drugs, plus the associated biochemical machinery (precursors, synthesis and degradative enzymes, and transporters). Several biochemical, pharmacological and physiological studies have shown that endocannabinoid system elements are widely distributed throughout the body, with regional variations and organ-specific actions. This review portrays the endocannabinoid "family" on new studies concerning eCB storage, release and functional roles and on the growing importance of its bioactive metabolites. Those findings reinforce and confirm the importance of ECS. Strategies for manipulating the system for the treatment of human disease will require a thorough understanding of the roles of the different eCBs and their sources.

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