During the last decade, research has identified the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as a key regulator of essential physiological functions, including the regulation of microvascular and immune function. Indeed, increasing evidence now suggests that release of endocannabinoids and activation of cannabinoid receptors occurs during sepsis and that manipulation of the ECS may represent an important therapeutic target to improve microcirculation in sepsis. In this review, the pharmacology and physiology of the ECS and the involvement of cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and non-CB1R/CB2R pathways related to ECS activation will be described. This information will increase our comprehension of the role of lipid signaling pathways in sepsis and may lead to the identification of new drug targets for the treatment of impaired microcirculation.
Key words: systemic inflammation, sepsis, microcirculation, lipid mediators, cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors