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Endogenous cannabinoids mediate retrograde signalling at hippocampal synapses

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Marijuana affects brain function primarily by activating the G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor-1 (CB1)1-3, which is expressed throughout the brain at high levels4. Two endogenous lipids, anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), have been identified as CB1 ligands5,6. Depolarized hippocampal neurons rapidly release both anandamide and 2-AG in a Ca2+-dependent manner6-8. In the hippocampus, CB1 is expressed mainly by GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid)-mediated inhibitory interneurons, where CB1 clusters on the axon terminal9-11. A synthetic CB1 agonist depresses GABA release from hippocampal slices10,12. These findings indicate that the function of endogenous cannabinoids released by depolarized hippocampal neurons might be to downregulate GABA release. Here we show that the transient suppression of GABA-mediated transmission that follows depolarization of hippocampal pyramidal neurons13 is mediated by retrograde signalling through release of endogenous cannabinoids. Signalling by the endocannabinoid system thus represents a mechanism by which neurons can communicate backwards across synapses to modulate their inputs.




Wilson, R. I., & Nicoll, R. A. (2001). Endogenous cannabinoids mediate retrograde signalling at hippocampal synapses. Nature, 410(6828), 588–592.

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