The Endocannabinoid System of Animals.

 animals-logo“The endocannabinoid system has been found to be pervasive in mammalian species. It has also been described in invertebrate species as primitive as the Hydra. Insects, apparently, are devoid of this, otherwise, ubiquitous system that provides homeostatic balance to the nervous and immune systems, as well as many other organ systems.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been defined to consist of three parts, which include (1) endogenous ligands, (2) G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), and (3) enzymes to degrade and recycle the ligands. Two endogenous molecules have been identified as ligands in the ECS to date.

The endocannabinoids are anandamide (arachidonoyl ethanolamide) and 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol). Two G-coupled protein receptors (GPCR) have been described as part of this system, with other putative GPC being considered.

Coincidentally, the phytochemicals produced in large quantities by the Cannabis sativa L plant, and in lesser amounts by other plants, can interact with this system as ligands. These plant-based cannabinoids are termed phytocannabinoids.

The precise determination of the distribution of cannabinoid receptors in animal species is an ongoing project, with the canine cannabinoid receptor distribution currently receiving the most interest in non-human animals.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31527410

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/9/686

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Targeting Cannabinoid Signaling in the Immune System: “High”-ly Exciting Questions, Possibilities, and Challenges

Image result for frontiers in immunology“It is well known that certain active ingredients of the plants of Cannabis genus, i.e., the “phytocannabinoids” [pCBs; e.g., (−)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), (−)-cannabidiol, etc.] can influence a wide array of biological processes, and the human body is able to produce endogenous analogs of these substances [“endocannabinoids” (eCB), e.g., arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide, AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), etc.]. These ligands, together with multiple receptors (e.g., CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, etc.), and a complex enzyme and transporter apparatus involved in the synthesis and degradation of the ligands constitute the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a recently emerging regulator of several physiological processes. The ECS is widely expressed in the human body, including several members of the innate and adaptive immune system, where eCBs, as well as several pCBs were shown to deeply influence immune functions thereby regulating inflammation, autoimmunity, antitumor, as well as antipathogen immune responses, etc. Based on this knowledge, many in vitro and in vivo studies aimed at exploiting the putative therapeutic potential of cannabinoid signaling in inflammation-accompanied diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis) or in organ transplantation, and to dissect the complex immunological effects of medical and “recreational” marijuana consumption. Thus, the objective of the current article is (i) to summarize the most recent findings of the field; (ii) to highlight the putative therapeutic potential of targeting cannabinoid signaling; (iii) to identify open questions and key challenges; and (iv) to suggest promising future directions for cannabinoid-based drug development.

Active Components of Cannabis sativa (Hemp)—Phytocannabinoids (pCBs) and Beyond

It is known since ancient times that consumption of different parts of the plant Cannabis sativa can lead to psychotropic effects. Moreover, mostly, but not exclusively because of its potent analgesic actions, it was considered to be beneficial in the management of several diseases. Nowadays it is a common knowledge that these effects were mediated by the complex mixture of biologically active substances produced by the plant. So far, at least 545 active compounds have been identified in it, among which, the best-studied ones are the so-called pCBs. It is also noteworthy that besides these compounds, ca. 140 different terpenes [including the potent and selective CB2 agonist sesquiterpene β-caryophyllene (BCP)], multiple flavonoids, alkanes, sugars, non-cannabinoid phenols, phenylpropanoids, steroids, fatty acids, and various nitrogenous compounds can be found in the plant, individual biological actions of which are mostly still nebulous. Among the so far identified > 100 pCBs, the psychotropic (−)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychotropic (−)-cannabidiol (CBD) are the best-studied ones, exerting a wide-variety of biological actions [including but not exclusively: anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti inflammatory effects]. Of great importance, pCBs have been shown to modulate the activity of a plethora of cellular targets, extending their impact far beyond the “classical” (see above) cannabinoid signaling. Indeed, besides being agonists [or in some cases even antagonists of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, some pCBs were shown to differentially modulate the activity of certain TRP channels, PPARs, serotonin, α adrenergic, adenosine or opioid receptors, and to inhibit COX and lipoxygenase enzymes, FAAH, EMT, etc.. Moreover, from a clinical point-of-view, it should also be noted that pCBs can indirectly modify pharmacokinetics of multiple drugs (e.g., cyclosporine A) by interacting with several cytochrome P 450 (CYP) enzymes. Taken together, pCBs can be considered as multitarget polypharmacons, each of them having unique “molecular fingerprints” created by the characteristic activation/inhibition pattern of its locally available cellular targets.

Concluding Remarks—Lessons to Learn from Cannabis

Research efforts of the past few decades have unambiguously evidenced that ECS is one of the central orchestrators of both innate and adaptive immune systems, and that pure pCBs as well as complex cannabis-derivatives can also deeply influence immune responses. Although, many open questions await to be answered, pharmacological modulation of the (endo)cannabinoid signaling, and restoration of the homeostatic eCB tone of the tissues augur to be very promising future directions in the management of several pathological inflammation-accompanied diseases. Moreover, in depth analysis of the (quite complex) mechanism-of-action of the most promising pCBs is likely to shed light to previously unknown immune regulatory mechanisms and can therefore pave new “high”-ways toward developing completely novel classes of therapeutic agents to manage a wide-variety of diseases.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01487/full

www.frontiersin.org

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Novel CB1-ligands maintain homeostasis of the endocannabinoid-system in ω3- and ω6-long chain-PUFA deficiency.

The Journal of Lipid Research“Mammalian ω3- and ω6-PUFAs are synthesized from essential fatty acids (EFAs) or supplied by the diet. PUFAs are constitutive elements of membrane-architecture and precursors of lipid signaling molecules. EFAs and long chain PUFAs are precursors in the synthesis of endocannabinoid-ligands of the Gi/o-protein coupled cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 in the endocannabinoid-system, which critically regulates energy homeostasis, as metabolic signaling system in hypothalamic neuronal circuits, and behavioral parameters. We utilized the auxotrophic fatty acid desaturase 2 deficient (fads2-/-) mouse, deficient in long chain PUFA-synthesis, to follow the age dependent dynamics of the PUFA pattern in the CNS-phospholipidome in unbiased dietary studies of three cohorts on sustained long chain PUFA-free, ω6-arachidonic and ω3-docosahexaenoic acid supplemented diets and their impact on the precursor pool of CB1 ligands. We discovered the transformation of eicosa-all cis-5,11,14-trienoic acid, uncommon in mammalian lipidomes, into two novel endocannabinoids, 20:35,11,14-ethanolamide and 2-20:35,11,14-glycerol, acting as ligands of CB1 in HEK293-cells. Labeling experiments excluded a Δ8-desaturase activity and proved the position-specificity of FADS2. The fads2 -/- mutant might serve as an unbiased model in vivo in the development of novel CB1-agonists and antagonists.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31167809

http://www.jlr.org/content/early/2019/06/05/jlr.M094664

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The Endocannabinoid/Endovanilloid System in Bone: From Osteoporosis to Osteosarcoma.

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“Bone is a dynamic tissue, whose homeostasis is maintained by a fine balance between osteoclast (OC) and osteoblast (OB) activity. The endocannabinoid/endovanilloid (EC/EV) system’s receptors are the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), the cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2), and the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1). Their stimulation modulates bone formation and bone resorption. Bone diseases are very common worldwide. Osteoporosis is the principal cause of bone loss and it can be caused by several factors such as postmenopausal estrogen decrease, glucocorticoid (GC) treatments, iron overload, and chemotherapies. Studies have demonstrated that CB1 and TRPV1 stimulation exerts osteoclastogenic effects, whereas CB2 stimulation has an anti-osteoclastogenic role. Moreover, the EC/EV system has been demonstrated to have a role in cancer, favoring apoptosis and inhibiting cell proliferation. In particular, in bone cancer, the modulation of the EC/EV system not only reduces cell growth and enhances apoptosis but it also reduces cell invasion and bone pain in mouse models. Therefore, EC/EV receptors may be a useful pharmacological target in the prevention and treatment of bone diseases. More studies to better investigate the biochemical mechanisms underlining the EC/EV system effects in bone are needed, but the synthesis of hybrid molecules, targeting these receptors and capable of oppositely regulating bone homeostasis, seems to be a promising and encouraging prospective in bone disease management.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31003519

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/8/1919

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The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator

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“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a very important role in the human body for our survival. This is due to its ability to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis of the human body, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few. ECS is a unique system in multiple dimensions.

To begin with, it is a retrograde system functioning post- to pre-synapse, allowing it to be a “master regulator” in the body. Secondly, it has a very wide scope of influence due to an abundance of cannabinoid receptors located anywhere from immune cells to neurons. Finally, cannabinoids are rapidly synthesized and degraded, so they do not stay in the body for very long in high amounts, possibly enabling cannabinoid therapy to be a safer alternative to opioids or benzodiazepines. This paper will discuss how ECS functions through the regulation of neurotransmitter function, apoptosis, mitochondrial function, and ion-gated channels. The practical applications of the ECS, as well as the avenues for diseases such as epilepsy, cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and autism, which have no known cure as of now, will be explored.

The ECS is one of the, if not the most, important systems in our body. Its role in the homeostatic function of our body is undeniable, and its sphere of influence is incredible. Additionally, it also plays a major role in apoptotic diseases, mitochondrial function, and brain function.

Its contribution is more than maintaining homeostasis; it also has a profound ability in regulation. Working in a retrograde fashion and with a generally inhibitory nature, ECS can act as a “kill switch.” However, it has been shown to play an inhibitory or stimulatory role based on the size of the influx of cannabinoids, resulting in a bimodal regulation. Furthermore, due to the nature of the rate of degradation of cannabinoids, it does not have as many long-term side effects as most of the current drugs on the market.

The ECS may not only provide answers for diseases with no known cures, but it could change the way we approach medicine. This system would allow us to change our focus from invasive pharmacological interventions (i.e. SSRIs for depression, benzodiazepines for anxiety, chemotherapies for cancer) to uncovering the mystery of why the body is failing to maintain homeostasis. Understanding the roles of ECS in these diseases confers a new direction for medicine which may eradicate the use of some of the less tolerable therapeutics.”

https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator

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Multiple endocannabinoid-mediated mechanisms in the regulation of energy homeostasis in brain and peripheral tissues.

“The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is widely expressed in many central and peripheral tissues, and is involved in a plethora of physiological processes. Among these, activity of the eCB system promotes energy intake and storage, which, however, under pathophysiological conditions, can favour the development of obesity and obesity-related disorders. It is proposed that eCB signalling is evolutionary beneficial for survival under periods of scarce food resources. Remarkably, eCB signalling is increased both in hunger and in overnutrition conditions, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. This apparent paradox suggests a role of the eCB system both at initiation and at clinical endpoint of obesity. This review will focus on recent findings about the role of the eCB system controlling whole-body metabolism in mice that are genetically modified selectively in different cell types. The current data in fact support the notion that eCB signalling is not only engaged in the development but also in the maintenance of obesity, whereby specific cell types in central and peripheral tissues are key sites in regulating the entire body’s energy homeostasis.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30599065

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00018-018-2994-6

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Weight loss and improved mood after aerobic exercise training are linked to lower plasma anandamide in healthy people.

Physiology & Behavior

“Anandamide, a major endocannabinoid, participates in energy metabolism homeostasis and neurobehavioral processes. In a secondary analyses of an open-label, randomized controlled trial, we investigated the long-term effect of aerobic exercise on resting plasma anandamide, and explored its relationship with changes in body weight, cardiorespiratory fitness, and mood status in healthy, physically inactive individuals.

Thirty-four participants (age = 38 ± 11.5, BMI = 26.6 ± 3.6) were intention to treat-analysed (Exercise: n = 17; Control: n = 17). After intervention, there were significant decreases in plasma anandamide (p < .01), anger, anxiety, and body weight (all p < .05), whereas cardiorespiratory fitness increased (p < .05) in the exercise group. There were no significant changes in any variable for the control group. In the whole cohort, adjusted R2 of multiple linear regressions showed that 12.2% of change body weight was explained by changes in anandamide (β = 0.391, p = .033), while 27% of change in mood disturbance (β = 0.546, p = .003), and 13.1% of change in anger (β = 0.404, p = .03) was explained by changes in anandamide.

Our data suggest that the weight loss and mood improvement through regular moderate exercise may involve changes in anandamide metabolism/signaling.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30578894

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938418308254?via%3Dihub

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Exploiting the Multifaceted Effects of Cannabinoids on Mood to Boost Their Therapeutic Use Against Anxiety and Depression.

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“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been recently recognized as a prominent promoter of the emotional homeostasis, mediating the effects of different environmental signals including rewarding and stressing stimuli. The complex influences of the ECS on both the environmental and internal stimuli processing, make the cannabinoid-based drugs an appealing option to treat different psychiatric conditions. In particular, better knowledge of the multifaceted effects of cannabinoids could help to understand how to boost their therapeutic use in anxiety and depression treatment.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30515077

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnmol.2018.00424/full

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Cannabinoids, Chemical Senses, and Regulation of Feeding Behavior.

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“The herb Cannabis sativa has been traditionally used in many cultures and all over the world for thousands of years as medicine and recreation.

However, because it was brought to the Western world in the late 19th century, its use has been a source of controversy with respect to its physiological effects as well as the generation of specific behaviors. In this regard, the CB1 receptor represents the most relevant target molecule of cannabinoid components on nervous system and whole-body energy homeostasis.

Thus, the promotion of CB1 signaling can increase appetite and stimulate feeding, whereas blockade of CB1 suppresses hunger and induces hypophagia.

Taste and flavor are sensory experiences involving the oral perception of food-derived chemicals and drive a primal sense of acceptable or unacceptable for what is sampled. Therefore, research within the last decades focused on deciphering the effect of cannabinoids on the chemical senses involved in food perception and consequently in the pattern of feeding.

In this review, we summarize the data on the effect of cannabinoids on chemical senses and their influences on food intake control and feeding behavior.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30481264

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The endocannabinoid system in mental disorders: Evidence from human brain studies.

Biochemical Pharmacology

“Mental disorders have a high prevalence compared with many other health conditions and are the leading cause of disability worldwide. Several studies performed in the last years support the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the etiopathogenesis of different mental disorders.

The present review will summarize the latest information on the role of the endocannabinoid system in psychiatric disorders, specifically depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. We will focus on the findings from human brain studies regarding alterations in endocannabinoid levels, cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoid metabolizing enzymes in patients suffering mental disorders.

Studies carried out in humans have consistently demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system is fundamental for emotional homeostasis and cognitive function. Thus, deregulation of the different elements that are part of the endocannabinoid system may contribute to the pathophysiology of several mental disorders. However, the results reported are controversial. In this sense, different alterations in gene and/or protein expression of CB1 receptors have been shown depending on the technical approach used or the brain region studied.

Despite the current discrepancies regarding cannabinoid receptors changes in depression and schizophrenia, present findings point to the endocannabinoid system as a pivotal neuromodulatory pathway relevant in the pathophysiology of mental disorders.

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