The FAAH inhibitor URB597 efficiently reduces tyrosine hydroxylase expression through CB₁- and FAAH-independent mechanisms.Br J Pharmacol 2013; 169(4):794-807BJ
Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are neuromodulatory lipids interacting with cannabinoid receptors, whose availability is regulated by the balance between 'on demand' generation and enzymatic degradation [by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH)/monoacylglycerol lipase]. Given the reported effects of anandamide on dopamine transmission, we investigated the influence of endocannabinoids and URB597, a well-known FAAH inhibitor, on the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine synthesis.
We investigated TH expression in N1E115 neuroblastoma using a reporter gene assay, as well as mRNA and protein quantifications. FAAH inhibition was confirmed by measuring radiolabelled substrate hydrolysis and endogenous endocannabinoids.
Anandamide decreased TH promoter activity in N1E115 cells through CB₁ receptor activation. Unexpectedly, URB597 reduced TH expression (pEC₅₀ = 8.7 ± 0.2) through FAAH-independent mechanisms. Indeed, four structurally unrelated inhibitors of FAAH had no influence on TH expression, although all the inhibitors increased endocannabinoid levels. At variance with the endocannabinoid responses, the use of selective antagonists indicated that the URB597-mediated decrease in TH expression was not directed by the CB₁ receptor, but rather by abnormal-cannabidiol-sensitive receptors and PPARs. Further supporting the physiological relevance of these in vitro data, URB597 administration resulted in reduced TH mRNA levels in mice brain.
While confirming the implication of endocannabinoids on the modulation of TH, we provide strong evidence for additional physiologically relevant off-target effects of URB597. In light of the numerous preclinical studies involving URB597, particularly in anxiety and depression, the existence of non-CB₁ and non-FAAH mediated influences of URB597 on key enzymes of the catecholaminergic transmission system should be taken into account when interpreting the data.