Endocannabinoids are natural lipids able to bind to cannabinoid and vanilloid receptors. Their biological actions at the central and peripheral level are under the tight control of the proteins responsible for their synthesis, transport and degradation. In the last few years, several reports have pointed out these lipid mediators as critical signals, together with sex hormones and cytokines, in various aspects of animal and human reproduction. The identification of anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in reproductive cells and tissues of invertebrates, vertebrates and mammals highlights the key role played by these endogenous compounds along the evolutionary axis. Here, we review the main actions of endocannabinoids on female and male reproductive events, and discuss the interplay between them, steroid hormones and cytokines in regulating fertility. In addition, we discuss the involvement of endocannabinoid signalling in ensuring a correct chromatin remodeling, and hence a good DNA quality, in sperm cells.
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