[Frontiers in Bioscience 16, 498-516, January 1, 2011]
The manifold actions of endocannabinoids on female and male reproductive events
Monica Bari1, Natalia Battista2, Valentina Pirazzi2, Mauro Maccarrone 2,3
1Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy, 2Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Teramo, Italy, 3European Center for Brain Research (CERC)/Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Epidemiological studies have highlighted the ever growing use of illegal drugs among teenagers. The negative effects of marijuana (a Cannabis sativa extract) on reproductive health are poorly known among young people, although chronic exposure to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive constituent of marijuana, impairs human reproductive potential by disrupting menstrual cycle, suppressing oogenesis and impairing embryo implantation and development, in women, and by increasing ejaculation problems, reducing sperm count and motility, and generating loss of libido and impotence, in men. Endocannabinoids, their metabolic enzymes and target receptors form the so called "endocannabinoid system" and they have been demonstrated to respond to fertility signals. In addition, they interfere with hormones, cytokines and other signalling molecules in both female and male reproductive events. In this review, we shall summarize the current knowledge on the endocannabinoid system, and on the multifaceted roles played by endocannabinoids in reproduction along the evolutionary axis from invertebrates to mammals. Furthermore, we shall discuss the potential use of distinct elements of the endocannabinoid system for the diagnosis and/or treatment of human infertility.