CB 2 receptors in reproduction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cannabinoids have been always identified as harmful drugs because of their negative effects on male and female reproduction. The discovery of the 'endocannabinoid system (ECS)', composed of bioactive lipids (endocannabinoids), their receptors and their metabolic enzymes, and the generation of mouse models missing cannabinoid receptors or other elements of the ECS, has enabled a wealth of information on the significance of endocannabinoid signalling in multiple reproductive events: Sertoli cell survival, spermatogenesis, placentation, fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, implantation and postimplantation embryonic growth. These studies have also opened new perspectives in clinical applications, pointing to the ECS as a new target for correcting infertility and for improving reproductive health in humans. This review will focus on the involvement of type-2 cannabinoid (CB 2) receptors in reproductive biology, covering both the male and female sides. It will also discuss the potential relevance of the immunological activity of CB 2 at the maternal/foetal interface, as well as the distinctiveness of CB 2 versus type-1 cannabinoid (CB 1) receptors that might be exploited for a receptor subtype-specific regulation of fertility. In this context, the different signalling pathways triggered by CB 1 and CB 2 (especially those controlling the intracellular tone of nitric oxide), the different activation of CB 1 and CB 2 by endogenous agonists (like anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol) and the different localization of CB 1 and CB 2 within membrane subdomains, termed 'lipid rafts', will be discussed. It is hoped that CB 2-dependent endocannabinoid signalling might become a useful target for correcting infertility, in both men and women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Blastocyst
  • Embryo
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Fertility
  • Immunity
  • Implantation
  • Lipid rafts
  • Sertoli cells
  • Signal transduction
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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