Crosstalk between endocannabinoid and immune systems: A potential dysregulation in depression?

Emily Boorman, Zuzanna Zajkowska, Rumsha Ahmed, Carmine M. Pariante, Patricia A. Zunszain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
192 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The endocannabinoid (eCB) system, an endogenous lipid signaling system, appears to be dysregulated in depression. The role of endocannabinoids (eCBs) as potent immunomodulators, together with the accumulating support for a chronic low-grade inflammatory profile in depression, suggests a compelling hypothesis for a fundamental impairment in their intercommunication, in depression. Objective: We aim to review previous literature on individual associations between the immune and eCB systems and depression. It will focus on peripheral and central mechanisms of crosstalk between the eCB and immune systems. A potential dysregulation in this crosstalk will be discussed in the context of depression. Results: Investigations largely report a hypoactivity of the eCB system and increased inflammatory markers in individuals with depression. Findings depict a multifaceted communication whereby immunocompetent and eCB-related cells can both influence the suppression and enhancement of the other's activity in both the periphery and central nervous system. A dysregulation of the eCB system, as seen in depression, appears to be associated with central and peripheral concentrations of inflammatory agents implicated in the pathophysiology of this illness. Conclusion: The eCB and immune systems have been individually associated with and implicated in pathogenic mechanisms of depression. Both systems tightly regulate the other's activity. As such, a dysregulation in this crosstalk has potential to influence the onset and maintenance of this neuropsychiatric illness. However, few studies have investigated both systems and depression conjointly. This review highlights the demand to consider joint eCB-immune interactions in the pathoetiology of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1591-1604
Number of pages14
Issue number9
Early online date20 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • 2-AG
  • Anandamide
  • CNS
  • Cytokine
  • Eicosanoids
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphocyte
  • Microglia
  • Microglial polarisation
  • Prostaglandin


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