Mammalian reproduction is a complicated process designed to diversify and strengthen the genetic complement of the offspring and to safeguard regulatory systems at various steps for propagating procreation. An emerging concept in mammalian reproduction is the role of endocannabinoids, a group of endogenously produced lipid mediators, that bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. Although adverse effects of cannabinoids on fertility have been implicated for years, the mechanisms by which they exert these effects were not clearly understood. With the identification of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid ligands, their key synthetic and hydrolytic pathways, and the generation of mouse models missing cannabinoid receptors, a wealth of information on the significance of cannabinoid/endocannabinoid signaling in spermatogenesis, fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, implantation, and postimplantation embryonic growth has been generated. This review focuses on various aspects of the endocannabinoid system in male and female fertility. It is hoped that a deeper insight would lead to potential clinical applications of the endocannabinoid signaling as a target for correcting infertility and improving reproductive health in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism