Dual modulation of endocannabinoid transport and fatty acid amide hydrolase protects against excitotoxicity.J Neurosci 2005; 25(34):7813-20JN
The endocannabinoid system has been suggested to elicit signals that defend against several disease states including excitotoxic brain damage. Besides direct activation with CB1 receptor agonists, cannabinergic signaling can be modulated through inhibition of endocannabinoid transport and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), two mechanisms of endocannabinoid inactivation. To test whether the transporter and FAAH can be targeted pharmacologically to modulate survival/repair responses, the transport inhibitor N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-arachidonamide (AM404) and the FAAH inhibitor palmitylsulfonyl fluoride (AM374) were assessed for protection against excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. AM374 and AM404 both enhanced mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation in cultured hippocampal slices. Interestingly, combining the distinct inhibitors produced additive effects on CB1 signaling and associated neuroprotection. After an excitotoxic insult in the slices, infusing the AM374/AM404 combination protected against cytoskeletal damage and synaptic decline, and the protection was similar to that produced by the stable CB1 agonist AM356 (R-methanandamide). AM374/AM404 and the agonist also elicited cytoskeletal and synaptic protection in vivo when coinjected with excitotoxin into the dorsal hippocampus. Correspondingly, potentiating endocannabinoid responses with the AM374/AM404 combination prevented behavioral alterations and memory impairment that are characteristic of excitotoxic damage. The protective effects mediated by AM374/AM404 were (1) evident 7 d after insult, (2) correlated with the preservation of CB1-linked MAPK signaling, and (3) were blocked by a selective CB1 antagonist. These results indicate that dual modulation of the endocannabinoid system with AM374/AM404 elicits neuroprotection through the CB1 receptor. The transporter and FAAH are modulatory sites that may be exploited to enhance cannabinergic signaling for therapeutic purposes.