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1.  Methamphetamine Accelerates Cellular Senescence through Stimulation of De Novo Ceramide Biosynthesis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0116961.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive psychostimulant that causes profound damage to the brain and other body organs. Post mortem studies of human tissues have linked the use of this drug to diseases associated with aging, such as coronary atherosclerosis and pulmonary fibrosis, but the molecular mechanism underlying these findings remains unknown. Here we used functional lipidomics and transcriptomics experiments to study abnormalities in lipid metabolism in select regions of the brain and, to a greater extent, peripheral organs and tissues of rats that self-administered methamphetamine. Experiments in various cellular models (primary mouse fibroblasts and myotubes) allowed us to investigate the molecular mechanisms of systemic inflammation and cellular aging related to methamphetamine abuse. We report now that methamphetamine accelerates cellular senescence and activates transcription of genes involved in cell-cycle control and inflammation by stimulating production of the sphingolipid messenger ceramide. This pathogenic cascade is triggered by reactive oxygen species, likely generated through methamphetamine metabolism via cytochrome P450, and involves the recruitment of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) to induce expression of enzymes in the de novo pathway of ceramide biosynthesis. Inhibitors of NF-κB signaling and ceramide formation prevent methamphetamine-induced senescence and systemic inflammation in rats self-administering the drug, attenuating their health deterioration. The results suggest new therapeutic strategies to reduce the adverse consequences of methamphetamine abuse and improve effectiveness of abstinence treatments.
PMCID: PMC4324822  PMID: 25671639
2.  More surprises lying ahead 
Neuropharmacology  2013;S0028-3908(13)00343-2 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.07.026.
The objective of this review is to point out some important facts that we don’t know about endogenous cannabinoids — lipid-derived signaling molecules that activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors and play key roles in motivation, emotion and energy balance. The first endocannabinoid substance to be discovered, anandamide, was isolated from brain tissue in 1992. Research has shown that this molecule is a bona fide brain neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of stress responses and pain, but the molecular mechanisms that govern its formation and the neural pathways in which it is employed are still unknown. There is a general consensus that enzyme-mediated cleavage, catalyzed by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), terminates the biological actions of anandamide, but there are many reasons to believe that other as-yet-unidentified proteins are also involved in this process. We have made significant headway in understanding the second arrived in the endocannabinoid family, 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol (2-AG), which was discovered three years after anandamide. Researchers have established some of the key molecular players involved in 2-AG formation and deactivation, localized them to specific synaptic components, and showed that their assembly into a multi-molecular protein complex (termed the ‘2-AG signalosome’) allows 2-AG to act as a retrograde messenger at excitatory synapses of the brain. Basic questions that remain to be answered pertain to the exact molecular composition of the 2-AG signalosome, its regulation by neural activity and its potential role in the actions of drugs of abuse such as Δ9-THC and cocaine.
PMCID: PMC3855347  PMID: 23954677
3.  Effects of acute stress on cardiac endocannabinoids, lipogenesis, and inflammation in rats 
Psychosomatic medicine  2013;76(1):20-28.
Trauma exposure can precipitate acute/post-traumatic stress responses (AS/PTSD) and disabling cardiovascular disorders (CVD). Identifying acute stress-related physiologic changes that may increase CVD risk could inform development of early CVD-prevention strategies. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response and stress-related cardiovascular function. We examine stress-related endocannabinoid system (ECS) activity and its association with cardiovascular biochemistry/function following acute stress.
Rodents (n=8-16/group) were exposed to predator odor or saline; elevated plus maze (EPM), blood pressure (BP), serum and cardiac tissue ECS markers, and lipid metabolism were assessed at 24h and 2wks post-exposure.
At 24h the predator odor group demonstrated anxiety-like behavior and had (a) elevated serum markers of cardiac failure/damage (brain natriuretic peptide [BNP]: 275.1 vs. 234.6, p=0.007; troponin-I: 1.50 vs. 0.78, p=0.076), lipogenesis (triacylglycerols [TAG]: 123.5 vs. 85.93, p=0.018), and inflammation (stearoyl delta-9 desaturase activity [SCD-16]: 0.21 vs. 0.07, p<0.001); (b) significant decrease in cardiac endocannabinoid (2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol, 2-AG: 29.90 vs. 65.95, p<0.001) and fatty acid ethanolamides (FAE: oleoylethanolamide, OEA: 114.3 vs. 125.4, p=0.047; palmitoylethanolamide, PEA: 72.96 vs. 82.87, p=0.008); and (c) increased cardiac inflammation (IL-1β/IL-6 ratio: 19.79 vs.13.57, p=0.038; TNF-α/IL-6 ratio: 1.73 vs. 1.03, p=0.019) and oxidative stress (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances [TBARS]: 7.81 vs. 7.05, p=0.022), that were associated with cardiac steatosis (higher TAG: 1.09 vs. 0.72, p<0.001). Cardiac lipogenesis persisted, and elevated BP emerged two weeks after exposure.
Acute psychological stress elicits ECS-related cardiac responses associated with persistent, potentially-pathological changes in rat cardiovascular biochemistry/function.
PMCID: PMC3988664  PMID: 24367128
Acute stress; cardiovascular status; endocannabinoids; lipogenesis; inflammation; triacylglycerols
4.  Synthesis and Structure-activity Relationship Studies of O-Biphenyl-3-yl Carbamates as Peripherally Restricted Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase Inhibitors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(14):5917-5930.
The peripherally restricted fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor URB937 (3, cyclohexylcarbamic acid 3’-carbamoyl-6-hydroxybiphenyl-3-yl ester) is extruded from the brain and spinal cord by the Abcg2 efflux transporter. Despite its inability to enter the central nervous system (CNS), 3 exerts profound antinociceptive effects in mice and rats, which result from the inhibition of FAAH in peripheral tissues and the consequent enhancement of anandamide signaling at CB1 cannabinoid receptors localized on sensory nerve endings. In the present study, we examined the structure-activity relationships (SAR) for the biphenyl region of compound 3, focusing on the carbamoyl and hydroxyl groups in the distal and proximal phenyl rings. Our SAR studies generated a new series of peripherally restricted FAAH inhibitors and identified compound 35 (cyclohexylcarbamic acid 3’-carbamoyl-5-hydroxybiphenyl-3-yl ester) as the most potent brain-impermeant FAAH inhibitor disclosed to date.
PMCID: PMC4062305  PMID: 23822179
FAAH; O-biphenyl-3-yl carbamates; URB937; SAR; peripheral FAAH inhibitors
5.  PER2 Controls Lipid Metabolism by Direct Regulation of PPARγ 
Cell metabolism  2010;12(5):509-520.
Accumulating evidence highlights intriguing interplays between circadian and metabolic pathways. We show that PER2 directly and specifically represses PPARγ, a nuclear receptor critical in adipogenesis, insulin sensitivity and inflammatory response. PER2-deficient mice display altered lipid metabolism, with drastic reduction of total triacylglycerol and non-esterified fatty acids. PER2 exerts its inhibitory function by blocking PPARγ recruitment to target promoters and thereby transcriptional activation. Whole-genome microarray profiling demonstrates that PER2 dictates the specificity of PPARγ transcriptional activity. Indeed, lack of PER2 results in enhanced adipocyte differentiation of cultured fibroblasts. PER2 targets S112 in PPARγ, a residue whose mutation has been associated to altered lipid metabolism. Lipidomic profiling demonstrates that PER2 is necessary for normal lipid metabolism in white adipocyte tissue. Our findings support a scenario in which PER2 controls the pro-adipogenic activity of PPARγ by operating as its natural modulator, thereby revealing potential avenues of pharmacological and therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC4103168  PMID: 21035761
6.  A fatty gut feeling 
The absorptive epithelium of the proximal small intestine converts oleic acid released during fat digestion into oleoylethanolamide (OEA), an endogenous high-affinity agonist of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPAR-α). OEA interacts with this receptor to cause a state of satiety characterized by prolonged inter-meal intervals and reduced feeding frequency. The two main branches of the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic, contribute to this effect: the former by enabling OEA mobilization in the gut and the latter by relaying the OEA signal to brain structures, such as the hypothalamus, that are involved in feeding regulation. OEA signaling may be a key component of the physiological system devoted to the monitoring of dietary fat intake, and its dysfunction might contribute to overweight and obesity.
PMCID: PMC3778443  PMID: 23567058
7.  A mighty (ochondrial) fight? 
Molecular Metabolism  2014;3(4):345-346.
PMCID: PMC4060220  PMID: 24944892
8.  Quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics modeling of fatty acid amide hydrolase reactivation distinguishes substrate from irreversible covalent inhibitors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(6):2500-2512.
Carbamate and urea derivatives are important classes of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors that carbamoylate the active-site nucleophile Ser241. In the present work, the reactivation mechanism of carbamoylated FAAH is investigated by means of a quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) approach. The potential energy surfaces for decarbamoylation of FAAH covalent adducts, deriving from the O-aryl carbamate URB597 and from the N-piperazinylurea JNJ1661610, were calculated and compared to that for deacylation of FAAH acylated by the substrate oleamide. Calculations show that a carbamic group bound to Ser241 prevents efficient stabilization of transition states of hydrolysis, leading to large increments in the activation barrier. Moreover, the energy barrier for the piperazine carboxylate was significantly lower than that for the ciclohexyl carbamate derived from URB597. This is consistent with experimental data showing slowly reversible FAAH inhibition for the N-piperazinylurea inhibitor and irreversible inhibition for URB597.
PMCID: PMC3724458  PMID: 23425199
Pain  2012;154(3):350-360.
Fatty acid ethanolamides (FAEs), which include palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA), are endogenous agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPAR-α) and important regulators of the inflammatory response. They are degraded in macrophages by the lysosomal cysteine amidase, N-acylethanolamine acid amidase (NAAA). Previous studies have shown that pharmacological inhibition of NAAA activity suppresses macrophage activation in vitro and causes marked anti-inflammatory effects in vivo, which is suggestive of a role for NAAA in the control of inflammation. It is still unknown, however, whether NAAA-mediated FAE deactivation might regulate pain signaling. In the present study, we examined the effects of ARN077, a potent and selective NAAA inhibitor recently disclosed by our group, in rodent models of hyperalgesia and allodynia caused by inflammation or nerve damage. Topical administration of ARN077 attenuated, in a dose-dependent manner, heat hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia elicited in mice by carrageenan injection or sciatic nerve ligation. The anti-nociceptive effects of ARN077 were prevented by the selective PPAR-α antagonist GW6471 and did not occur in PPAR-α-deficient mice. Furthermore, topical ARN077 reversed the allodynia caused by ultraviolet B-radiation in rats, and this effect was blocked by pretreatment with GW6471. Sciatic nerve ligation or application of the pro-inflammatory phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) decreased FAE levels in sciatic nerve and skin tissue, respectively. ARN077 reversed these biochemical effects. The results identify ARN077 as a potent inhibitor of intracellular NAAA activity, which is active in vivo by topical administration. The findings further suggest that NAAA regulates peripheral pain initiation by interrupting endogenous FAE signaling at PPAR-α.
PMCID: PMC3723234  PMID: 23218523
10.  Elevated Brain Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor Availability in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Positron Emission Tomography Study 
Molecular psychiatry  2013;18(9):1034-1040.
Endocannabinoids and their attending cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) have been implicated in animal models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, their specific role has not been studied in people with PTSD. Herein, we present an in vivo imaging study using positron emission tomography (PET) and the CB1-selective radioligand [11C]OMAR in individuals with PTSD, and healthy controls with lifetime histories of trauma (trauma controls [TC]) and those without such histories (healthy controls [HC]). Untreated individuals with PTSD (N=25) with non-combat trauma histories, and TC (N=12) and HC (N=23) participated in a magnetic resonance (MR) imaging scan and a resting PET scan with the CB1 receptor antagonist radiotracer [11C]OMAR, which measures volume of distribution (VT) linearly related to CB1 receptor availability. Peripheral levels of anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), oleoylethanolamide (OEA), palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), and cortisol were also assessed. In the PTSD group, relative to the HC and TC groups, we found elevated brain-wide [11C]OMAR VT values (F(2,53)=7.96, p=.001; 19.5% and 14.5% higher, respectively) which were most pronounced in women (F(1,53)=5.52, p=.023). Anandamide concentrations were reduced in the PTSD relative to the TC (53.1% lower) and HC (58.2% lower) groups. Cortisol levels were lower in the PTSD and TC groups relative to the HC group. Three biomarkers examined collectively—OMAR VT, anandamide, and cortisol—correctly classified nearly 85% of PTSD cases. These results suggest that abnormal CB1 receptor-mediated anandamide signaling is implicated in the etiology of PTSD, and provide a promising neurobiological model to develop novel, evidence-based pharmacotherapies for this disorder.
PMCID: PMC3752332  PMID: 23670490
PTSD; Cannabinoid receptors; brain imaging; PET; OMAR
11.  A binding site for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in FAAH 
In addition to inhibiting the cyclooxygenasemediated biosynthesis of prostanoids, various widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) enhance endocannabinoid signaling by blocking the anandamidedegrading membrane enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). The X-ray structure of FAAH in complex with the NSAID carprofen, along with studies of site-directed mutagenesis, enzyme activity assays, and nuclear magnetic resonance, now reveal the molecular details of this interaction, providing information that may guide the design of dual FAAH-cyclooxygenase inhibitors with superior analgesic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3562592  PMID: 23240907
12.  Correction: Brown Adipose Tissue Quantification in Human Neonates Using Water-Fat Separated MRI 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):10.1371/annotation/f1b2fa68-726c-4f30-b061-d05c8a281eb8.
PMCID: PMC3888153
13.  Brown Adipose Tissue Quantification in Human Neonates Using Water-Fat Separated MRI 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77907.
There is a major resurgence of interest in brown adipose tissue (BAT) biology, particularly regarding its determinants and consequences in newborns and infants. Reliable methods for non-invasive BAT measurement in human infants have yet to be demonstrated. The current study first validates methods for quantitative BAT imaging of rodents post mortem followed by BAT excision and re-imaging of excised tissues. Identical methods are then employed in a cohort of in vivo infants to establish the reliability of these measures and provide normative statistics for BAT depot volume and fat fraction. Using multi-echo water-fat MRI, fat- and water-based images of rodents and neonates were acquired and ratios of fat to the combined signal from fat and water (fat signal fraction) were calculated. Neonatal scans (n = 22) were acquired during natural sleep to quantify BAT and WAT deposits for depot volume and fat fraction. Acquisition repeatability was assessed based on multiple scans from the same neonate. Intra- and inter-rater measures of reliability in regional BAT depot volume and fat fraction quantification were determined based on multiple segmentations by two raters. Rodent BAT was characterized as having significantly higher water content than WAT in both in situ as well as ex vivo imaging assessments. Human neonate deposits indicative of bilateral BAT in spinal, supraclavicular and axillary regions were observed. Pairwise, WAT fat fraction was significantly greater than BAT fat fraction throughout the sample (ΔWAT-BAT = 38%, p<10−4). Repeated scans demonstrated a high voxelwise correlation for fat fraction (Rall = 0.99). BAT depot volume and fat fraction measurements showed high intra-rater (ICCBAT,VOL = 0.93, ICCBAT,FF = 0.93) and inter-rater reliability (ICCBAT,VOL = 0.86, ICCBAT,FF = 0.93). This study demonstrates the reliability of using multi-echo water-fat MRI in human neonates for quantification throughout the torso of BAT depot volume and fat fraction measurements.
PMCID: PMC3813555  PMID: 24205024
14.  Identification and characterization of carprofen as a multi-target FAAH/COX inhibitor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2012;55(20):8807-8826.
Pain and inflammation are major therapeutic areas for drug discovery. Current drugs for these pathologies have limited efficacy, however, and often cause a number of unwanted side effects. In the present study, we identify the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug, carprofen, as a multi-target-directed ligand that simultaneously inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), COX-2 and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Additionally, we synthesized and tested several racemic derivatives of carprofen, sharing this multi-target activity. This may result in improved analgesic efficacy and reduced side effects (Naidu, et al (2009) J Pharmacol Exp Ther 329, 48-56; Fowler, C.J. et al. (2012) J Enzym Inhib Med Chem Jan 6; Sasso, et al (2012) Pharmacol Res 65, 553). The new compounds are among the most potent multi-target FAAH/COXs inhibitors reported so far in the literature, and thus may represent promising starting points for the discovery of new analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
PMCID: PMC3764917  PMID: 23043222
15.  Covalent inhibitors of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH): A rationale for the activity of piperidine and piperazine aryl ureas 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(19):6612-6623.
Recently, covalent drugs have attracted great interest in the drug discovery community, with successful examples that have demonstrated their therapeutic effects. Here, we focus on the covalent inhibition of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is a promising strategy in the treatment of pain and inflammation. Among the most recent and potent FAAH inhibitors (FAAHi), there are the cyclic piperidine/piperazine aryl ureas. FAAH hydrolyzes efficiently the amide bond of these compounds, forming a covalent enzyme-inhibitor adduct. To rationalize this experimental evidence, we performed an extensive computational analysis centered on the piperidine-based PF750 (1) and the piperazine-based JNJ1661010 (2), two potent lead compounds used to generating covalent inhibitors as clinical candidates. We found that FAAH induces a distortion of the amide bond of the piperidine/piperazine aryl ureas. QM/MM ΔELUMO-HOMO energies indicate that the observed enzyme-induced distortion of the amide bond favors the formation of a covalent FAAH- inhibitor adduct. These findings could help in the rational structure-based design of novel covalent FAAHi.
PMCID: PMC3774108  PMID: 21830831
16.  The thrifty lipids: Endocannabinoids and the neural control of energy conservation 
Trends in neurosciences  2012;35(7):403-411.
The “thrifty gene hypothesis” posits that evolution preferentially selects physiological mechanisms that optimize energy storage to increase survival under alternating conditions of abundance and scarcity of food. Recent experiments suggest that endocannabinoids – a class of lipid-derived mediators that activate cannabinoid receptors in many cells of the body – are key agents of energy conservation. The new evidence indicates that these compounds increase energy intake and decrease energy expenditure by controlling the activity of peripheral and central neural pathways involved in the sensing and hedonic processing of sweet and fatty foods, as well as in the storage of their energy content for future use.
PMCID: PMC3744874  PMID: 22622030
2-arachidonoylglycerol; cannabinoid receptors; dietary fat
17.  Synthesis and QSAR of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase Inhibitors: Modulation at the N-Portion of Biphenyl-3-yl Alkylcarbamates 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(12):3487-3498.
Alkylcarbamic acid biphenyl-3-yl esters are a class of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors that comprises cyclohexylcarbamic acid 3′-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester (URB597), a compound with analgesic, anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like properties in rat and mouse models. Here, we extended the structure-activity relationships (SARs) for this class of compounds by replacing the cyclohexyl ring of the parent compound cyclohexylcarbamic acid biphenyl-3-yl ester (URB524) (IC50, for FAAH = 63 nM) with a selected set of substituents of different size, shape, flexibility and lipophilicity.
Docking experiments and Linear Interaction Energy (LIE) calculations indicated that the N-terminal group of O-arylcarbamates fits within the lipophilic region of the substrate-binding site, mimicking the arachidonoyl chain of anandamide. Significant potency improvements were observed for the β-naphthylmethyl derivative 4q (IC50 = 5.3 nM) and its 3′-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester 4z (URB880, IC50 = 0.63 nM), indicating that shape complementarity and hydrogen bonds are crucial to obtain highly potent inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3744893  PMID: 18507372
18.  Peripheral FAAH inhibition causes profound antinociception and protects against indomethacin-induced gastric lesions 
Fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) catalyzes the intracellular hydrolysis of the endocannabinoid anandamide and other bioactive lipid amides. In the present study, we conducted a comparative characterization of the effects of the newly identified brain-impermeant FAAH inhibitor, URB937 ([3-(3-carbamoylphenyl)-4-hydroxy-phenyl] N-cyclohexylcarbamate), in various rodent models of acute and persistent pain. When administered by the oral route in mice, URB937 was highly active (median effective dose, ED50, to inhibit liver FAAH activity: 0.3 mg-kg−1) and had a bioavailability of 5.3%. The antinociceptive effects of oral URB937 were investigated in mouse models of acute inflammation (carrageenan), peripheral nerve injury (chronic sciatic nerve ligation) and arthritis (complete Freund’s adjuvant). In all models, URB937 was as effective or more effective than standard analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs (indomethacin, gabapentin, dexamethasone) and reversed pain-related responses (mechanical hyperalgesia, thermal hyperalgesia, and mechanical allodynia) in a dose-dependent manner. ED50 values ranged from 0.2 to 10 mg-kg−1, depending on model and readout. Importantly, URB937 was significantly more effective than two global FAAH inhibitors, URB597 and PF-04457845, in the complete Freund’s adjuvant model. The effects of a combination of URB937 with the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, indomethacin, were examined in the carrageenan and chronic sciatic nerve ligation models. Isobolographic analyses showed that the two compounds interacted synergistically to attenuate pain-related behaviors. Furthermore, URB937 reduced the number and severity of gastric lesions produced by indomethacin, while exerting no ulcerogenic effect when administered alone. The results indicate that the peripheral FAAH inhibitor URB937 is more effective than globally active FAAH inhibitors at inhibiting inflammatory pain. Our findings further suggest that FAAH and cyclooxygenase inhibitors interact functionally in peripheral tissues, to either enhance or hinder each other’s actions.
PMCID: PMC3738192  PMID: 22420940
inflammation; anandamide; neuropathic pain; gastric lesions; cannabinoid receptors
19.  An amyloid β42-dependent deficit in anandamide mobilization is associated with cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease 
Neurobiology of Aging  2011;33(8):1522-1532.
The endocannabinoids and their attending CB1 cannabinoid receptors have been implicated in the control of cognition, but their possible roles in dementias are still unclear. In the present study, we used liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry to conduct an endocannabinoid-targeted lipidomic analysis of post mortem brain samples from 38 Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and 17 control subjects, matched for age and post mortem interval. The analysis revealed that midfrontal and temporal cortex tissue from AD patients contains, relative to control subjects, significantly lower levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide and its precursor 1-stearoyl, 2-docosahexaenoyl-sn-glycero-phosphoethanolamine-N-arachidonoyl (NArPE). No such difference was observed with the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol or 15 additional lipid species. In AD patients, but not in control subjects, statistically detectable positive correlations were found between (a) anandamide content in midfrontal cortex and scores of the Kendrick’s digit copying test (P=0.004, r=0.81; n=10), which measures speed of information processing; and (b) anandamide content in temporal cortex and scores of the Boston naming test (P=0.027, r=0.52; n=18), which assesses language facility. Furthermore, anandamide and NArPE levels in midfrontal cortex of the study subjects inversely correlated with levels of the neurotoxic amyloid peptide, Aβ42, while showing no association with Aβ40 levels, amyloid plaque load or tau protein phosphorylation. Finally, high endogenous levels of Aβ42 in APPSWE/Neuro-2a cells directly reduced anandamide and NArPE concentrations in cells lysates. The results suggest that an Aβ42-dependent impairment in brain anandamide mobilization contributes to cognitive dysfunction in AD.
PMCID: PMC3154439  PMID: 21546126
endocannabinoid; anandamide; amyloid β42; cognitive dysfunction; Alzheimer’s disease; human brain; lipidomics
20.  2-arachidonoylglycerol signaling in forebrain regulates systemic energy metabolism 
Cell metabolism  2012;15(3):299-310.
The endocannabinoid system plays a critical role in the control of energy homeostasis, but the identity and localization of the endocannabinoid signal involved remain unknown. In the present study we developed transgenic mice that over-express in forebrain neurons the presynaptic hydrolase, monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL), which deactivates the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol (2-AG). MGL-overexpressing mice show a 50 percent decrease in forebrain 2-AG levels, but no overt compensation in other endocannabinoid components. This biochemical abnormality is accompanied by a series of metabolic changes that include leanness, elevated energy cost of activity and hypersensitivity to β3-adrenergic-stimulated thermogenesis, which is corrected by reinstating 2-AG activity at CB1-cannabinoid receptors. Additionally, the mutant mice are resistant to diet-induced obesity and express high levels of thermogenic proteins, such as uncoupling protein-1, in their brown adipose tissue. The results suggest that 2-AG signaling through CB1 regulates the activity of forebrain neural circuits involved in the control of energy dissipation.
PMCID: PMC3729112  PMID: 22405068
21.  The ABC membrane transporter ABCG2 prevents access of FAAH inhibitor URB937 to the central nervous system 
The O-arylcarbamate URB937 is a potent inhibitor of fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an intracellular serine hydrolase responsible for the deactivation of the endocannabinoid anandamide. URB937 is unique among FAAH inhibitors in that is actively extruded from the central nervous system (CNS), and therefore increases anandamide levels exclusively in peripheral tissues. Despite its limited distribution, URB937 exhibits marked analgesic properties in rodent models of pain. Pharmacological evidence suggests that the extrusion of URB937 from the CNS may be mediated by the ABC membrane transporter ABCG2 (also called Breast Cancer Resistance Protein, BCRP). In the present study, we show that URB937 is a substrate for both mouse and human orthologues of ABCG2. The relative transport ratios for URB937 in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCKII) cells monolayers over-expressing either mouse Abcg2 or human ABCG2 were significantly higher compared to parental monolayers (13.6 and 13.1 vs 1.5, respectively). Accumulation of the compound in the luminal/apical side was prevented by co-administration of the selective ABCG2 inhibitor, Ko-143. In vivo studies in mice showed that URB937 (25 mg-kg−1) readily entered the brain and spinal cord of Abcg2-deficient mice following intraperitoneal administration, whereas the same dose of drug remained restricted to peripheral tissues in wild-type mice. By identifying ABCG2 as a transport mechanism responsible for the extrusion of URB937 from the CNS, the present results should facilitate the rational design of novel peripherally restricted FAAH inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3729352  PMID: 21767647
Fatty-acid amide hydrolase; URB937; Breast cancer resistance protein; blood-brain barrier; central nervous system; Abcg2-deficient mice
22.  Biphenyl-3-yl alkylcarbamates as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors: Steric effects of N-alkyl chain on rat plasma and liver stability 
Secondary alkylcarbamic acid biphenyl-3-yl esters are a class of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors, which include the reference compounds URB597 and URB694. Given the intrinsic reactivity of the carbamate group, the in vivo potency of these molecules in rats is strongly affected by their hydrolysis in plasma or hepatic metabolism. In the present study, in vitro chemical and metabolic stability assays (rat plasma and rat liver S9 fraction) were used to investigate the structure-property relationships (SPRs) for a focused series of title compounds, where lipophilicity and steric hindrance of the carbamate N-substituent had been modulated. The resulting degradation rates indicate that a secondary or tertiary alkyl group at the carbamate nitrogen atom increases hydrolytic stability towards rat plasma esterases. The calculated solvent accessible surface area (SASA) of the carbamate fragment was employed to describe the differences observed in rate constants of hydrolysis in rat plasma (log kplasma), suggesting that stability in plasma increases if the substituent exerts a shielding effect on the carbamate carbonyl. Stability in rat liver S9 fraction is increased when a tertiary carbon is bound to the carbamate nitrogen atom, while other steric effects showed complex relationships with degradation rates. The SPRs here described may be applied at the pharmacokinetic optimization of other classes of carbamate FAAH inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3714604  PMID: 21820769
alkylcarbamates; FAAH inhibitors; liquid chromatography; SPR; stability; rat plasma
23.  FAAH deficiency promotes energy storage and enhances the motivation for food 
FAAH is the main degrading enzyme of the fatty acid ethanolamides anandamide (AEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which have opposite effects on food intake and energy balance. AEA, an endogenous ligand of CB1 cannabinoid receptors, enhances food intake and energy storage, whereas OEA binds to PPAR-α receptors to reduce food intake and promoting lipolysis. To elucidate the role of FAAH in food intake and energy balance, we have evaluated different metabolic and behavioral responses related to feeding in FAAH-deficient (FAAH−/−) mice and their wild-type littermates. Total daily food intake was similar in both genotypes, but high-fat food consumption was enhanced during the dark hours and decreased during the light hours in FAAH−/− mice. The reinforcing and motivational effects of food were also enhanced in FAAH−/− mice as revealed by operant behavioral paradigms. These behavioral responses were reversed by the administration of the selective CB1 cannabinoid antagonist rimonabant. Furthermore, body weight, total amount of adipose tissue, plasmatic free fatty acids and triglyceride content in plasma, liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, were increased in FAAH−/− mice. Accordingly, leptin levels were increased and adiponectin levels decreased in these mutant FAAH−/− mice also showed enhanced plasmatic insulin and blood glucose levels revealing an insulin resistance. As expected, both AEA and OEA levels were increased in hypothalamus, small intestine and liver of FAAH−/− mice. These results indicate that the lack of FAAH predominantly promotes energy storage by food intake-independent mechanisms, through the enhancement of AEA levels rather than promoting the anorexic effects of OEA.
PMCID: PMC3709605  PMID: 20029375
fatty acid amide hydrolase; anandamide; oleoylethanolamide; food intake; body weight; lipid turnover; food reinforcement
24.  Rapid Pain Modulation with Nuclear Receptor Ligands 
Brain research reviews  2008;60(1):114-124.
We discuss and present new data regarding the physiological and molecular mechanisms of nuclear receptor activation in pain control, with a particular emphasis on non-genomic effects of ligands at peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR), GPR30, and classical estrogen receptors. PPARα agonists rapidly reduce both acute and chronic pain in a number of pain assays. These effects precede transcriptional anti-inflammatory actions, and are mediated in part by IKca and BKca channels on DRG neurons. In contrast to the peripheral site of action of PPARα ligands, the dorsal horn supports the expression of PPARγ. Intrathecal administration of PPARγ ligands rapidly (≤5 minutes) attenuated mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity associated with nerve injury in a dose-dependent manner that could be blocked with PPARγ antagonists. By contrast, a PPARγ antagonist itself rapidly increased the mechanical allodynia associated with nerve injury. These data suggest that ligand-dependent, non-genomic activation of spinal PPARγ decreases behavioral signs of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. We also report that the GPR30 is expressed on cultured sensory neurons, that activation of the receptor elicits signaling to increase calcium accumulation and PKCε translocation, and that this signaling may contribute to increased neuronal sensitivity as treatment with the GPR30 agonist induces hyperalgesia. Finally, application of the membrane-impermeable 17ß-E2-BSA rapidly (within 15 min) enhanced BK-stimulated inositol phosphate (IP) accumulation and PGE2-mediated cAMP accumulation in trigeminal ganglion cultures. We conclude that nuclear receptor ligands may operate through rapid, non-genomic mechanisms to modulate inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3695814  PMID: 19162071
25.  Synthesis and characterization of a peripherally restricted CB1 cannabinoid antagonist, URB447, that reduces feeding and body-weight gain in mice☆ 
Cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonists reduce body weight in rodents and humans, but their clinical utility as anti-obesity agents is limited by centrally mediated side effects. Here, we describe the first mixed CB1 antagonist/CB2 agonist, URB447 ([4-amino-1-(4-chlorobenzyl)-2-methyl-5-phenyl-1H-pyrrol-3-yl](phenyl)methanone), which lowers food intake and body-weight gain in mice without entering the brain or antagonizing central CB1-dependent responses. URB447 may provide a useful pharmacological tool for investigating the cannabinoid system, and might serve as a starting point for developing clinically viable CB1 antagonists devoid of central side effects.
PMCID: PMC3690177  PMID: 19128970
URB447; Peripheral cannabinoid antagonism; Anti-obesity agents; Pyrrolic CB-antagonists

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