2014 Volume 90 Issue 7 Pages 235-250
Since the first reports in 2001, great advances have been made towards the understanding of endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic modulation. Electrophysiological studies have revealed that one of the two major endocannabinoids, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), is produced from membrane lipids upon postsynaptic Ca2+ elevation and/or activation of Gq/11-coupled receptors, and released from postsynaptic neurons. The released 2-AG then acts retrogradely onto presynaptic cannabinoid CB1 receptors and induces suppression of neurotransmitter release either transiently or persistently. These forms of 2-AG-mediated retrograde synaptic modulation are functional throughout the brain. The other major endocannabinoid, anandamide, mediates a certain form of endocannabinoid-mediated long-term depression (LTD). Anandamide also functions as an agonist for transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor type 1 (TRPV1) and mediates endocannabinoid-independent and TRPV1-dependent forms of LTD. It has also been demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system itself is plastic, which can be either up- or down-regulated by experimental or environmental conditions. In this review, I will make an overview of the mechanisms underlying endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic modulation.