Abstract : In an earlier study, we demonstrated that chronic ethanol (EtOH) exposure down-regulated the cannabinoid receptors (CB1) in mouse brain synaptic plasma membrane. In the present study, we investigated the effect of chronic EtOH on the formation of anandamide (AnNH), an endogenous cannabimimetic compound, and its precursor N-arachidonoylphosphatidylethanolamine (N-ArPE) in SK-N-SH cells that were prelabeled with [3H]arachidonic acid. The results indicate that exposure of SK-N-SH cells to EtOH (100 mM) for 72 h significantly increased levels of [3H]AnNH and [3H]N-ArPE (p < 0.05) (1.43-fold for [3H]AnNH and 1.65-fold for [3H]N-ArPE). Exposure of SK-N-SH cells to EtOH (100 mM, 24h) inhibited initially the formation of [3H]AnNH at 24 h, followed by a progressive increase, reaching a statistical significance level at 72 h (p < 0.05). [3H]N-ArPE increased gradually to a statistically significant level after 48 and 72 h (p < 0.05). Incubation with exogenous ethanolamine (7 mM) and EtOH (100 mM, 72 h) did not result in an additive increase in the formation of [3H]AnNH. The formation of [3H]AnNH and [3H]N-ArPE by EtOH was enhanced by the Ca2+ ionophore A23187 or by the depolarizing agent veratridine and the K+ channel blocker 4-aminopyridine. Further, the EtOH-induced formation of [3H]AnNH and [3H]N-ArPE was inhibited by exogenous AnNH, whereas only [3H]AnNH formation was inhibited by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR141716A and pertussis toxin, suggesting that the CB1 receptor and Gi/o protein mediated the regulation of AnNH levels. The observed increase in the levels of these lipids in SK-N-SH cells may be a mechanism for neuronal adaptation and may serve as a compensatory mechanism to counteract the continuous presence of EtOH. The present observation taken together with our previous results indicate the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in mediating some of the pharmacological actions of EtOH and may constitute part of a common brain pathway mediating reinforcement of drugs of abuse including EtOH.