Endocannabinoid biochemistry: What do we know after 50 years?

Filomena Fezza, Mauro Maccarrone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Identification of the active ingredient of cannabis (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC) and of its receptor targets has boosted active research into a new field. Indeed, unequivocal evidence for selective sites of action for THC (the so-called cannabinoid receptors) has represented the scaffold for the discovery of a new family of endogenous lipids (the endocannabinoids), that bind to and activate the same sites. Soon after, the enzymes responsible for endocannabinoid biosynthesis and degradation were characterised, along with additional receptor targets and mechanisms of transmembrane transport and intracellular trafficking of these lipids. Altogether endocannabinoids, related receptors and metabolic enzymes form what is known as the endocannabinoid system. In the last 20 years several studies have documented key roles of this system in both animal models of disease and authentic human pathologies, providing the framework for next-generation therapeutic strategies. Current knowledge of the main elements of the endocannabinoid system is reviewed in this chapter, in order to fully appreciate the impact of THC discovery on our understanding of endocannabinoid signalling, a rather complex network that appears critical for both human health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCannabinoids
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons Ltd
Number of pages42
ISBN (Print)9781118451298, 9781118451298
Publication statusPublished - Aug 11 2014


  • Biosynthetic pathways
  • Endocannabinoid system (ECS)
  • Endocannabinoids(eCBs) signalling works
  • Oxidative metabolism
  • Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Endocannabinoid biochemistry: What do we know after 50 years?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this