Endocannabinoids, hormone-cytokine networks and human fertility

M. Maccarrone, K. Falciglia, M. Di Rienzo, A. Finazzi-Agrò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine, AEA) is a major endocannabinoid, shown to impair mouse pregnancy and embryo development and to induce apoptosis in blastocysts. Here, we review the roles of AEA, of the AEA-binding cannabinoid (CB) receptors, of the selective AEA membrane transporter (AMT), and of the AEA-hydrolyzing enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), in human gestation. In particular, we discuss the interplay between the endocannabinoid system and the hormone-cytokine array involved in the control of human pregnancy, showing that the endocannabinoids take part in the immunological adaptation occurring during early pregnancy. In this line, we discuss the critical role of FAAH in human peripheral lymphocytes, showing that the expression of this enzyme is regulated by progesterone, Th1 and Th2 cytokines, which also regulate fertility. Moreover, we show that AEA and the other endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, inhibit the release of the fertility-promoting cytokine leukemia inhibitory factor from human lymphocytes. Taken together, low FAAH and consistently high blood levels of AEA, but not CB receptors or AMT, can be early (

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-317
Number of pages9
JournalProstaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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