We have recently shown that the expression levels of both cannabinoid receptors CB(1) and CB(2) are higher in human prostate cancer cells than in normal prostate epithelial cells, and treatment of LNCaP cells with WIN-55,212-2 (a mixed CB(1)/CB(2) agonist) resulted in inhibition of cell growth and induction of apoptosis (Sarfaraz, S., Afaq, F., Adhami, V. M., and Mukhtar, H. (2005) Cancer Res. 65, 1635-1641). This study was conducted to understand the mechanistic basis of these effects. Treatment of LNCaP cells with WIN-55,212-2 (1-10 mum; 24 h) resulted in: (i) an arrest of the cells in the G(0)/G(1) phase of the cell cycle; (ii) an induction of p53 and p27/KIP1; (iii) down-regulation of cyclins D1, D2, E; (iii) decrease in the expression of cdk-2, -4, and -6; (iv) decrease in protein expression of pRb; (v) down-regulation of E2F (1-4); and (vi) decrease in the protein expression of DP1 and DP2. Similar effects were also observed when androgen-independent PC3 cells were treated with WIN-55,212-2 (5-30 mum). We further observed sustained up-regulation of ERK1/2 and inhibition of PI3k/Akt pathways in WIN-55,212-2-treated cells. Inhibition of ERK1/2 abrogated WIN-55,212-2-indued cell death suggesting that sustained activation of ERK1/2 leads to cell cycle dysregulation and arrest of cells in G(0)/G(1) phase subsequently leading to an induction of apoptosis. Further, WIN-55,212-2 treatment of cells resulted in a dose-dependent increase in Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in such a way that favors apoptosis. The induction of apoptosis proceeded through down-regulation of caspases 3, 6, 7, and 9 and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases. Based on these data we suggest that cannabinoid receptor agonists should be considered as novel agents for the management of prostate cancer.