A collaboration investigating endocannabinoid signalling in brain and bone.


Andreas Zimmer

Published in Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology

1 May 2016



Investigations into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the psychoactive effects of cannabis preparations have led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Interest in the central nervous system effects was initially the main focus of the research, but it soon became evident that the endocannabinoid system affects virtually every organ. The research field has therefore experienced a tremendous growth over the last decade and is now truly interdisciplinary. This short review provides a personal account of an interdisciplinary collaboration between Itai Bab from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author. It describes the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in bone and the analysis of its functions. I am summarising the role of CB1 signalling as a modulator of sympathetic inhibition of bone formation. Thus, activation of CB1 receptors on sympathetic nerve terminals in bone, presumably from endocannabinoids released from apposing osteoblasts, reduces the inhibition of bone formation of sympathetic norepinephrine. CB2 receptors on osteoblasts and osteoclasts also modulate the proliferation and functions of these cells. Thus, activation of CB2 stimulates bone formation and represses bone resorption, whereas the genetic disruption of CB2 results in an osteoporosis-like phenotype. This signalling mechanism is clinically relevant, as shown by the association of polymorphisms in the CB2 receptor gene, CNR2, with bone density and osteoporosis. Finally, the review provides a summary of the recently discovered role of endocannabinoid signalling in one elongation. This review will also discuss the benefits of interdisciplinary and international collaborations.


DOI: 10.1515/jbcpp-2015-0125



Zimmer A. A collaboration investigating endocannabinoid signalling in brain and bone. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2016;27(3):229-235. doi:10.1515/jbcpp-2015-0125