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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2015;231:129-83. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-20825-1_5.

Genetic Manipulation of the Endocannabinoid System.

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Institute of Molecular Psychiatry, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


The physiological and pathophysiological functions of the endocannabinoid system have been studied extensively using transgenic and targeted knockout mouse models. The first gene deletions of the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor were described in the late 1990s, soon followed by CB(2) and FAAH mutations in early 2000. These mouse models helped to elucidate the fundamental role of endocannabinoids as retrograde transmitters in the CNS and in the discovery of many unexpected endocannabinoid functions, for example, in the skin, bone and liver. We now have knockout mouse models for almost every receptor and enzyme of the endocannabinoid system. Conditional mutant mice were mostly developed for the CB(1) receptor, which is widely expressed on many different neurons, astrocytes and microglia, as well as on many cells outside the CNS. These mouse strains include "floxed" CB(1) alleles and mice with a conditional re-expression of CB(1). The availability of these mice made it possible to decipher the function of CB(1) in specific neuronal circuits and cell populations or to discriminate between central and peripheral effects. Many of the genetic mouse models were also used in combination with viral expression systems. The purpose of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the existing genetic models and to summarize some of the most important discoveries that were made with these animals.


Conditional knockouts; Genetic disease models; Transgenic mice; Viral expression systems

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