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Keywords:

  • atherosclerosis;
  • restenosis;
  • neointima;
  • myocardial infarction and reperfusion injury;
  • stroke;
  • macrophages;
  • smooth muscle cells;
  • endothelial cells

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, which can be largely attributed to atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammation of the arteries characterized by lesions containing immune and smooth muscle cells, lipids and extracellular matrix. In recent years, the lipid endocannabinoid system has emerged as a new therapeutic target in variety of disorders associated with inflammation and tissue injury, including those of the cardiovascular system. The discovery that Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the main active constituent of marijuana, inhibited atherosclerotic plaque progression via a cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor-dependent anti-inflammatory mechanism, and that certain natural and synthetic cannabinoid ligands could modulate the myocardial or cerebral ischaemia–reperfusion-induced tissue damage, have stimulated impetus for a growing number of studies investigating the implication of CB2 receptors in atherosclerosis, restenosis, stroke, myocardial infarction and heart failure. The aim of this review is to update on recent findings and controversies on the role of CB2 receptors in cardiovascular disease. Particular emphasis will be placed on novel insights in the potential cellular targets of CB2 stimulation in cardiovascular system (e.g. endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells, cardiomyocytes, infiltrating and/or resident monocytes/macrophages and leukocytes, etc.), their interplay and intracellular signalling mechanisms identified, as well as on experimental and clinical studies.