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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jan 29;274(5):2794-801.

Evidence that the cannabinoid CB1 receptor is a 2-arachidonoylglycerol receptor. Structure-activity relationship of 2-arachidonoylglycerol, ether-linked analogues, and related compounds.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Teikyo University, Sagamiko, Kanagawa 199-0195, Japan.


An endogenous cannabimimetic molecule, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, induces a rapid, transient increase in intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations in NG108-15 cells through a cannabinoid CB1 receptor-dependent mechanism. We examined the activities of 24 relevant compounds (2-arachidonoylglycerol, its structural analogues, and several synthetic cannabinoids). We found that 2-arachidonoylglycerol is the most potent compound examined so far: its activity was detectable from as low as 0.3 nM, and the maximal response induced by 2-arachidonoylglycerol exceeded the responses induced by others. Activities of HU-210 and CP55940, potent cannabinoid receptor agonists, were also detectable from as low as 0.3 nM, whereas the maximal responses induced by these compounds were low compared with 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Anandamide was also found to act as a partial agonist in this assay system. We confirmed that free arachidonic acid failed to elicit a response. Furthermore, we found that a metabolically stable ether-linked analogue of 2-arachidonoylglycerol possesses appreciable agonistic activity, although its activity was apparently lower than that of 2-arachidonoylglycerol. We also confirmed that pretreating cells with various cannabinoid receptor agonists nullified the response induced by 2-arachidonoylglycerol, whereas pretreating cells with other neurotransmitters or neuromodulators did not affect the response. These results strongly suggested that the cannabinoid CB1 receptor is originally a 2-arachidonoylglycerol receptor, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol is the intrinsic physiological ligand for the cannabinoid CB1 receptor.

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