Pharmacology of Cannabis

  • Allyn C. Howlett


The biological actions of cannabinoid compounds in humans have received the attention of several excellent reviews within the last 20 years (Abood & Martin, 1992; Bhargava, 1978; Dewey, 1986; Hollister, 1986; Lemberger, 1980; Paton, 1975). It is now believed that many of the effects of cannabimimetic compounds can be attributed to their actions via two receptors, the CB1 and the CB2 cannabinoid receptors. The central nervous system (CNS) responses to cannabinoid compounds are believed to be mediated by the CB1 subtype. The CB1 subtype also exists as a splice variant isoform, CB1(b), which is truncated at an extracellular site and whose mRNA is found in much lower abundance (Rinaldi-Carmona et al, 1996; Shire et al, 1995). The CB1(a) and CB1(b) isoforms exhibit relatively similar pharmacological properties when expressed in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells (Rinaldi-Carmona et al, 1996). The CB1 receptor is a G protein coupled receptor that inhibits adenylate cyclase activity and regulates ion channels. Several recent reviews have described the pharmacology, biochemistry, and CNS distribution of this receptor subtype (Abood & Martin, 1992; Howlett, Bidaut-Russell, et al, 1990; Howlett, Evans, & Houston, 1992; R. Pertwee, 1993). The CB2 receptor is found in immune tissue, and is also a G protein coupled receptor that mediates inhibition of cyclic AMP synthesis. As discussed in reviews by Howlett (1995a), Martin (1986), and Pertwee (1988), certain in vitro effects of cannabinoid drugs have been reported that may not be mediated by a receptor mechanism.


Adenylate Cyclase Phospholipid Headgroups Arachidonoyl Ethanolamide Inhibit Adenylate Cyclase Activity Central Nervous System Distribution 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allyn C. Howlett
    • 1
  1. 1.Saint Louis University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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