by Seshata on 03/04/2013 | Medicinal

Cannabinoid Science 101: What is 2-AG?

2-AG 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is the other main endocannabinoid, that along with anandamide, has an effect on the CB receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system. Specifically, 2-AG is a full agonist of both CB receptors, and is the primary ligand (binding molecule) for the CB2 receptor.

The 2-AG molecule
The 2-AG molecule

Chemical properties of 2-AG

2-AG is a member of a group of molecules that derive from arachidonic acid or two other 20-carbon essential fatty acids (EFAs) known as EPA and DGLA. These molecules, known as eicosanoids, are all oxidised versions of these 20-carbon (containing 20 carbon atoms per molecule) EFAs, and play a complex and important role in various bodily processes including immunity and inflammation.

The chemical formula for 2-AG, which can be classed as a fatty acid ester of glycerol as it converts the hydroxyl group of glycerol into a carboxyl group, has the molecular formula C23H38O4 and a molar mass of 378.3 g/mol. Due to its long hydrocarbon tail, the molecule can easily be broken down by the actions of lipid metabolism enzymes.

Synthesis and degradation of 2-AG

2-AG synthesis from precursor phospholipids, effected through the actions of the DAG lipase
2-AG synthesis from precursor phospholipids, effected through the actions of the DAG lipase

2-AG is formed similarly to anandamide—through the reaction of arachidonic acid with another endogenous molecule—although unlike anandamide, 2-AG requires glycerol rather than a free amine to make the chemical changes required.

However, rather than directly synthesising from the degradation of arachidonic acid, 2-AG is formed when the arachidonic acid-containing phospholipid diacylglycerol (DAG) reacts with glycerol. The enzyme that facilitates this process is known as the DAG lipase.

2-AG is degraded by monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH, also responsible for the degradation of anandamide) and several uncharacterised enzymes. It is believed that MAGL is responsible for up to 85% of this degradation process.

Physiological effects of 2-AG

2-AG is the most abundant endocannabinoid found in the body, and like anandamide, is thought to play an important role in the regulation of appetite, immune system functions and pain management. It is also thought that 2-AG may also play a role in the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation.

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Dawn Darington

Is it 2-AG or the awakening of the CB2?


Matthew Klein

It appears pretty clear to me that THC is the exogenous equivalent to 2AG.


Joshua James

The synthesis of 2-AG is wrong, a phosphatidic acid is not with a carbon atom but a phosphate one after the oxygen on the third glycerol carbon (gamma). And because it's a phosphate, it has a double bond to the cetone. Source: biochemistry major


Scarlet Palmer

Hi Joshua,

Thanks so much for pointing this out! We are currently in the process of overhauling the blog, including fact-checking our existing articles, so we will incorporate your point in the new version where appropriate. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

With best wishes,



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