The endocannabinoid system (ES) is a cell-signalling system widely distributed in biological tissues that includes endogenous ligands, receptors, and biosynthetic and hydrolysing machineries. The impairment of the ES has been associated to several pathological conditions like behavioural, neurological, or metabolic disorders and infertility, suggesting that the modulation of this system may be critical for the maintenance of health status and disease treatment. Lifestyle and environmental factors can exert long-term effects on gene expression without any change in the nucleotide sequence of DNA, affecting health maintenance and influencing both disease load and resistance. This potentially reversible “epigenetic” modulation of gene expression occurs through the chemical modification of DNA and histone protein tails or the specific production of regulatory non-coding RNA (ncRNA). Recent findings demonstrate the epigenetic modulation of the ES in biological tissues; in the same way, endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists induce widespread or gene-specific epigenetic changes with the possibility of trans-generational epigenetic inheritance in the offspring explained by the transmission of deregulated epigenetic marks in the gametes. Therefore, this review provides an update on the epigenetics of the ES, with particular attention on the emerging role in reproduction and fertility.
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