• cannabinoid receptors;
  • FAAH;
  • follicles;
  • corpus luteum


Although the effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on ovarian physiology have been known for many decades, its mechanism of action in the rat ovary remains poorly understood. The effects of THC and endocannabinoids on many cell types appear to be mediated through the G-protein-coupled CB1 and CB2 receptors. Evidence also suggests that the concentration of the endocannabinoid anandamide is regulated by cellular fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Therefore, we examined the rat ovary for the presence of CB1 and CB2 receptors and FAAH. The CB1 receptor was present in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), the granulosa cells of antral follicles, and the luteal cells of functional corpus luteum (CL). The granulosa cells of small preantral follicles, however, did not express the CB1 receptor. Western analysis also demonstrated the presence of a CB1 receptor. In both preantral and antral follicles, the CB2 receptor was detected only in the oocytes. In the functional CL, the CB2 receptor was detected in the luteal cells. FAAH was codistributed with CB2 receptor in both oocytes and luteal cells. FAAH was also present in the OSE, subepithelial cords of the tunica albuginea (TA) below the OSE, and in cells adjacent to developing preantral follicles. Western analysis also demonstrated the presence of FAAH in oocytes of both preantral and antral follicles. Our observations provide potential explanation for the effects of THC on steroidogenesis in the rat ovary observed by earlier investigators and a role for FAAH in the regulation of ovarian anandamide. Anat Rec 293:1425–1432, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.