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Keywords:

  • endocannabinoids;
  • 2-AG;
  • AEA;
  • glutamate;
  • neurotoxicity;
  • neuroprotection

ABSTRACT

Considerable progress has been made, recently, in understanding the role of the endocannabinoid system in regard to neuroprotection. Endogenous cannabinoids have received increasing attention as potential protective agents in several cases of neuronal injury. The endocannabinoid system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), their endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and proteins responsible for their metabolism. Endocannabinoids serve as retrograde signalling messengers in GABAergic and glutamatergic synapses, as well as modulators of post-synaptic transmission, interacting with other neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine and dopamine. Furthermore, endocannabinoids modulate neuronal, glial and endothelial cell function and exert neuromodulatory, anti-excitotoxic, anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory effects. Physiological stimuli and pathological conditions lead to differential increases in brain endocannabinoids that regulate distinct biological functions. The purpose of this review is to present the available in vivo and in vitro experimental data, up to date, regarding the endocannabinoid system and its role in neuroprotection, as well as its possible therapeutic perspectives. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.