From their phylogenetic and pharmacological classification it might be inferred that cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands constitute a rather specialised and biologically distinct signalling system. However, the opposite is true and accumulating data underline how much the endocannabinoid system is intertwined with other lipid and non-lipid signalling systems. Endocannabinoids per se have many structural congeners, and these molecules exist in dynamic equilibria with different other lipid-derived mediators, including eicosanoids and prostamides. With multiple crossroads and shared targets, this creates a versatile system involved in fine-tuning different physiological and metabolic processes, including inflammation. A key feature of this 'expanded' endocannabinoid system, or 'endocannabinoidome', is its subtle orchestration based on interactions between a relatively small number of receptors and multiple ligands with different but partly overlapping activities. Following an update on the role of the 'endocannabinoidome' in inflammatory processes, this review continues with possible targets for intervention at the level of receptors or enzymes involved in formation or breakdown of endocannabinoids and their congeners. Although its pleiotropic character poses scientific challenges, the 'expanded' endocannabinoid system offers several opportunities for prevention and therapy of chronic diseases. In this respect, successes are more likely to come from 'multiple-target' than from 'single-target' strategies.
- Fatty acids