Abstract Endogenous cannabinoids are considered to function as diffusible and short-lived modulators that may transmit signals retrogradely from postsynaptic to presynaptic neurons. To evaluate this possibility, we have made a paired whole-cell recording from cultured hippocampal neurons with inhibitory synaptic connections. In about 60% of pairs, a cannabinoid agonist greatly reduced the release of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA from presynaptic terminals. In most of such pairs but not in those insensitive to the agonist, depolarization of postsynaptic neurons and the resultant elevation of intracellular Ca 2+ concentration caused transient suppression of inhibitory synaptic currents, which is mainly due to reduction of GABA release. This depolarization-induced suppression was completely blocked by selective cannabinoid antagonists. Our results reveal that endogenous cannabinoids mediate retrograde signals from depolarized postsynaptic neurons to presynaptic terminals to cause the reduction of transmitter release.