Endocannabinoids released by postsynaptic cells inhibit neurotransmitter release in many central synapses by activating presynaptic cannabinoid CB1 receptors. In particular, in the cerebellum, endocannabinoids inhibit synaptic transmission at granule cell to Purkinje cell synapses by modulating presynaptic calcium influx via N-, P/Q-, and R-type calcium channels. Using whole cell patch-clamp techniques, we show that in addition to this presynaptic action, both synthetic and endogenous cannabinoids inhibit P-type calcium currents in isolated rat Purkinje neurons independent of CB1 receptor activation. The IC50 for the anandamide (AEA)-induced inhibition of P-current peak amplitude was 1.04 +/- 0.04 microM. In addition, we demonstrate that all the tested cannabinoids in a physiologically relevant range of concentrations strongly accelerate inactivation of P currents. The effects of AEA cannot be attributed to the metabolism of AEA because a nonhydrolyzing analogue of AEA, methanandamide inhibited P-type currents with a similar efficacy. All effects of cannabinoids on P-type Ca2+ currents were insensitive to antagonists of CB1 cannabinoid or vanilloid TRPV1 receptors. In cerebellar slices, WIN 55,212-2 significantly affected spontaneous firing of Purkinje neurons in the presence of CB1 receptor antagonist, in a manner similar to that of a specific P-type channel antagonist, indicating a possible functional implication of the direct effects of cannabinoids on P current. Taken together these findings demonstrate a functionally important direct action of cannabinoids on P-type calcium currents.