Endocannabinoids are a group of endogenous mediators derived from membrane lipids, which are implicated in a wide variety of physiological functions such as blood pressure regulation, immunity, pain, memory, reward, perception, reproduction, and sleep. N-Arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide; AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) represent two major endocannabinoids in the human body and they exert many of their cellular and organ system effects by activating the Gi/o protein-coupled, cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2) receptors. However, not all effects of cannabinoids are ascribable to their interaction with CB1 and CB2 receptors; indeed, macromolecules like other types of receptors, ion channels, transcription factors, enzymes, transporters, and cellular structure have been suggested to mediate the functional effects of cannabinoids. Among the proposed molecular targets of endocannabinoids, potassium channels constitute an intriguing group, because these channels not only are crucial in shaping action potentials and controlling the membrane potential and cell excitability, thereby regulating a wide array of physiological processes, but also serve as potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer and metabolic, neurological and cardiovascular disorders. This review sought to survey evidence pertaining to the CB1 and CB2 receptor-independent actions of endocannabinoids on ion channels, with an emphasis on AEA and potassium channels. To better understand the functional roles as well as potential medicinal uses of cannabinoids in human health and disease, further mechanistic studies to delineate interactions between various types of cannabinoids and ion channels, including members in the potassium channel superfamily, are warranted.
- 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
- anandamide (AEA)
- endocannabinoid system
- non-CB1, non-CB2 receptor-mediated
- Potassium channels
ASJC Scopus subject areas