Focus on the three key enzymes hydrolysing endocannabinoids as new drug targets.Curr Pharm Des. 2005; 11(20):2647-68.CP
The family of endocannabinoids (i.e., the endogenous agonists of cannabinoid receptors) contains several polyunsaturated fatty acid amides such as anandamide (AEA) and oleamide but also esters such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These compounds are the subject of growing interest in pharmacology for their multiple therapeutic potentials. Unfortunately, they are rapidly inactivated by enzymatic hydrolysis, which prevents their effective medical use. Inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation seem to be necessary tools for the development of endocannabinoid therapeutics. But hitting this target is inconceivable without good knowledge of the enzymes. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is the oldest and the best characterised enzyme involved in the degradation of endocannabinoids. Cloning, distribution in the body and crystal structure of FAAH have been described. A large number of FAAH inhibitors have also been synthesised and tested. For a long time, FAAH was considered as the only key enzyme hydrolysing endocannabinoids. But recent findings indicate that at least two other enzymes have critical role in the endocannabinoids degradation. Monoglyceride lipase participates in 2-AG degradation and some data indicate that it is the primary mechanism for 2-AG inactivation in intact neurons. N-palmitoylethanolamine-selective acid amidase (NPAA) is a second fatty acid amide hydrolase more active with N-palmitoylethanolamine, an anti-inflammatory substance. The purpose of this review is to collect and compare the catalytic properties of these 3 key enzymes hydrolysing endocannabinoids.