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International Journal of Endocrinology
Volume 2014, Article ID 412354, 16 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/412354
Review Article

Updates in Reproduction Coming from the Endocannabinoid System

1Dipartimento di Scienze Motorie e del Benessere, Università di Napoli Parthenope, via Medina 40, 80133 Napoli, Italy
2Faculty of Bioscience and Technology for Food, Agriculture and Environment, University of Teramo, 64100 Teramo, Italy
3European Center for Brain Research (CERC), Santa Lucia Foundation, 00143 Rome, Italy
4Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
5State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

Received 31 July 2013; Revised 20 November 2013; Accepted 4 December 2013; Published 16 January 2014

Academic Editor: Małgorzata Kotula-Balak

Copyright © 2014 Rosaria Meccariello et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an evolutionarily conserved master system deeply involved in the central and local control of reproductive functions in both sexes. The tone of these lipid mediators—deeply modulated by the activity of biosynthetic and hydrolyzing machineries—regulates reproductive functions from gonadotropin discharge and steroid biosynthesis to the formation of high quality gametes and successful pregnancy. This review provides an overview on ECS and reproduction and focuses on the insights in the regulation of endocannabinoid production by steroids, in the regulation of male reproductive activity, and in placentation and parturition. Taken all together, evidences emerge that the activity of the ECS is crucial for procreation and may represent a target for the therapeutic exploitation of infertility.