Endocannabinoid system, stress and HPA axis


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Abstract

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of the cannabinoid receptors types 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) for marijuana's psychoactive ingredient Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the endogenous ligands (AEA and 2-AG) and the enzymatic systems involved in their biosynthesis and degradation, recently emerged as important modulator of emotional and non-emotional behaviors. In addition to its recreational actions, some of the earliest reports regarding the effects of Cannabis use on humans were related to endocrine system changes. Accordingly, the Δ9-THC and later on, the ECS signalling have long been known to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which is the major neuroendocrine stress response system of mammals. However, how the ECS could modify the stress hormone secretion is not fully understood. Thus, the present article reviews current available knowledge on the role of the ECS signalling as important mediator of interaction between HPA axis activity and stressful conditions, which, in turn could be involved in the development of psychiatric disorders.

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