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Chem Phys Lipids. 2002 Dec 31;121(1-2):135-48.

The enzymatic inactivation of the fatty acid amide class of signaling lipids.

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  • 1Departments of Cell Biology and Chemistry, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 N Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The fatty acid amide (FAA) class of signaling lipids modulates a number of neurobehavioral processes in mammals, including pain, sleep, feeding, and locomotor activity. Representative FAAs include the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide and the sleep-inducing lipid oleamide. Despite activating several neuroreceptor systems in vitro, most FAAs produce only weak and transient behavioral effects in vivo, presumably due to their expeditious catabolism. This review focuses on one enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) that appears to play a major role in regulating the amplitude and duration of FAA signals in vivo. In particular, we will highlight a series of recent papers that have investigated the physiological functions of the mouse and human FAAH enzymes. Collectively, these studies promote FAAH as a central component of FAA signaling pathways, especially those mediated by the endocannabinoid anandamide, and suggest that this enzyme may represent an attractive pharmaceutical target for the treatment of pain and related neurophysiological disorders.

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