Exogenous cannabinoids affect multiple hormonal systems including the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. These data suggest that endogenous cannabinoids are also involved in the HPA control; however, the mechanisms underlying this control are poorly understood. We assessed the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the regulation of the HPA-axis by studying CB1 receptor knockout (KO) and wild type (WT) mice. Basal and novelty stress-induced plasma levels of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and corticosterone were higher in CB1-KO than in WT mice. We investigated the involvement of the pituitary in the hormonal effects of CB1 gene disruption by studying the in vitro release of ACTH from anterior pituitary fragments using a perifusion system. Both the basal and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH)-induced ACTH secretion were similar in CB1-KO and WT mice. The synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone suppressed the CRH-induced ACTH secretion in both genotypes; thus, the negative feedback of ACTH secretion was not affected by CB1 gene disruption. The cannabinoid agonist, WIN 55,212–2 had no effects on basal and CRH-stimulated ACTH secretion by anterior pituitary slices. In our hands, the disruption of the CB1 gene lead to HPA axis hyperactivity, but the pituitary seems not to be involved in this effect. Our data are consistent with the assumption that endogenous cannabinoids inhibit the HPA-axis via centrally located CB1 receptors, however the understanding of the exact underlying mechanism needs further investigation. D 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.