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J Med Chem. 1999 Mar 11;42(5):896-902.

Substrate specificity and stereoselectivity of rat brain microsomal anandamide amidohydrolase.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Institute of Materials Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA.


Anandamide amidohydrolase (AAH) catalyzes the hydrolysis of arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide), an endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligand. To delineate the structural requirements of AAH substrates, rat brain microsomal AAH hydrolysis of a series of anandamide congeners was studied using two reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) assays developed in our laboratory. Arachidonamide (1) was found to be the best substrate with an apparent Km of 2.34 mM and a Vmax of 2.89 nmol/min/mg of protein. Although anandamide (2) has a similar Km value, its Vmax is approximately one-half that of arachidonamide. N, N-Bis(2-hydroxyethyl)arachidonamide (3) was not hydrolyzed, suggesting specificity for unsubstituted or mono-N-substituted arachidonamides. Analogues with a methyl group at the 1'-position of the ethanolamido headgroup were also found to have greater resistance to enzymatic turnover and therefore increased metabolic stability. The enzyme exhibited high stereoselectivity as the rate of hydrolysis of (R)-alpha-methanandamide (2.4%) (anandamide = 100%) was about 10-fold lower than that of its (S)-enantiomer (23%). In contrast, (R)-beta-methanandamide was 6-times more susceptible (121%) than the (S)-beta-enantiomer (21%). Interestingly, an inverse correlation was shown between AAH stereoselectivity and the brain cannabinoid receptor affinity as the enantiomers with high receptor affinity displayed low susceptibility to hydrolysis by AAH. Metabolic stability is also imparted to analogues with a short hydrocarbon headgroup as well as to those possessing 2-monomethyl or 2,2-dimethyl substituents. 2-Arachidonylglycerol and racemic 1-arachidonylglycerol were shown to be excellent AAH substrates. To identify AAH inhibitors, hydrolysis of anandamide was also studied in the presence of a select group of cannabimimetics. Of these, (-)-Delta8-THC and SR141716A, a biarylpyrazole CB1 antagonist, were found to inhibit enzymatic activity. These newly defined enzyme recognition parameters should provide a foundation for the rational development of stable, therapeutically useful anandamide analogues with high receptor affinity.

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