Elucidating cannabinoid biology in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Randall G. Krug, Karl J. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The number of annual cannabinoid users exceeds 100,000,000 globally and an estimated 9% of these individuals will suffer from dependency. Although exogenous cannabinoids, like those contained in marijuana, are known to exert their effects by disrupting the endocannabinoid system, a dearth of knowledge exists about the potential toxicological consequences on public health. Conversely, the endocannabinoid system represents a promising therapeutic target for a plethora of disorders because it functions to endogenously regulate a vast repertoire of physiological functions. Accordingly, the rapidly expanding field of cannabinoid biology has sought to leverage model organisms in order to provide both toxicological and therapeutic insights about altered endocannabinoid signaling. The primary goal of this manuscript is to review the existing field of cannabinoid research in the genetically tractable zebrafish model-focusing on the cannabinoid receptor genes, cnr1 and cnr2, and the genes that produce enzymes for synthesis and degradation of the cognate ligands anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol. Consideration is also given to research that has studied the effects of exposure to exogenous phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids that are known to interact with cannabinoid receptors. These results are considered in the context of either endocannabinoid gene expression or endocannabinoid gene function, and are integrated with findings from rodent studies. This provides the framework for a discussion of how zebrafish may be leveraged in the future to provide novel toxicological and therapeutic insights in the field of cannabinoid biology, which has become increasingly significant given recent trends in cannabis legislation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 10 2015


  • Cannabis
  • Endocannabinoid
  • Marijuana
  • Phytocannabinoid
  • Synthetic cannabinoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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