Neurospheres are clonal cellular aggregates of neural stem/precursor cells that grow in culture as free-floating clusters. Activation of CB1 cannabinoid receptors, which are expressed by these cells, promotes proliferation. In the present study we investigated the expression of CB2 cannabinoid receptors and the effect of exogenous cannabinoids on neural stem/precursor cell proliferation. Neurospheres containing nestin-positive and sn-1 diacylglycerol lipase alpha-positive cells expressed both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which were maintained through several passages. Application of the non-selective cannabinoid agonist (HU-210, 0.5 microM) stimulated bromodeoxyuridine incorporation and neurosphere formation. This action involved both CB1 and CB2 receptors as neurosphere formation was stimulated by either selective CB1 [arachidonyl-2'chloroethylamide/(all Z)-N-(2-cycloethyl)-5,8,11,14-eicosatetraenamide (ACEA), 200 nM and 1 microM] or CB2 (JWH-056, 0.5 microM) agonists. In addition, CB1 or CB2 antagonists (1 microM SR-141716A and SR-144528, respectively) blocked basal proliferation, suggesting that endogenous cannabinoids are implicated in neurosphere proliferation. In addition, cannabinoid agonist-stimulated proliferation was reduced by the Akt translocation inhibitor BML-257 (12.5 microM), suggesting a role for phosphoinositide-3 kinase signalling. Together, our results suggest that cannabinoids stimulate proliferation of neural stem/precursor cells acting on both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors through a phosphoinositide-3 kinase/Akt pathway.