Inhibition of endocannabinoid catabolic enzymes elicits anxiolytic-like effects in the marble burying assay.Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2011; 98(1):21-7PB
Cannabinoids have long been shown to have a range of potential therapeutic effects, including antiemetic actions, analgesia, and anxiolysis. However, psychomimetic and memory disruptive side effects, as well as the potential for abuse and dependence, have restricted their clinical development. Endogenous cannabinoids (i.e., endocannabinoids; eCBs), such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), are produced throughout the limbic system and other brain regions associated with emotionality and are believed to modulate behavioral responses to stress-related conditions. AEA and 2-AG are rapidly metabolized by the respective enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL). Accordingly, inhibition of each enzyme increases brain levels of the appropriate eCB. Although FAAH inhibition has been established to decrease anxiety-like behavior, the role of 2-AG has been difficult to ascertain until the recent synthesis of JZL184, a potent and selective MAGL inhibitor. In the present study, we investigated the effects of inhibiting FAAH or MAGL on anxiety-like behavior in marble burying, a model of repetitive, compulsive behaviors germane to anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. The FAAH inhibitor PF-3845, the MAGL inhibitor JZL184, and the benzodiazepine diazepam decreased marble burying at doses that did not affect locomotor activity. In contrast, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive constituent of marijuana, did not consistently reduce marble burying without also eliciting profound decreases in locomotor behavior. The CB1 cannabinoid receptor antagonist rimonabant blocked the reduction in marble burying caused by FAAH and MAGL inhibitors, but not by diazepam, indicating a CB1 receptor mechanism of action. These data indicate that elevation of AEA or 2-AG reduces marble burying behavior and suggest that their catabolic enzymes represent potential targets for the development of new classes of pharmacotherapeutics to treat anxiety-related disorders.