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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Dec 6;102(49):17852-7. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Identification of a high-affinity binding site involved in the transport of endocannabinoids.

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Eli Lilly and Company, Lilly Research Laboratories, Lilly Corporate Center, Indianapolis, IN 46285-0510, USA.


Phytocannabinoids, such as the principal bioactive component of marijuana, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, have been used for thousands of years for medical and recreational purposes. delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and endogenous cannabinoids (e.g., anandamide) initiate their agonist properties by stimulating the cannabinoid family of G protein-coupled receptors (CB1 and CB2). The biosynthesis and physiology of anandamide is well understood, but its mechanism of uptake (resulting in signal termination by fatty acid amide hydrolase) has been elusive. Mounting evidence points to the existence of a specific anandamide transport protein; however, no direct evidence for this protein has been provided. Here, we use a potent, competitive small molecule inhibitor of anandamide uptake (LY2318912, IC50 7.27 +/- 0.510 nM) to identify a high-affinity, saturable anandamide transporter binding site (LY2318912; K(d) = 7.62 +/- 1.18 nM, B(max) = 31.6 +/- 1.80 fmol/mg protein) that is distinct from fatty acid amide hydrolase. Systemic administration of the inhibitor into rodents elevates anandamide levels 5-fold in the brain and demonstrates efficacy in the formalin paw-licking model of persistent pain with no obvious adverse effects on motor function. Identification of the anandamide transporter binding site resolves a missing mechanistic link in endocannabinoid signaling, and in vivo results suggest that endocannabinoid transporter antagonists may provide a strategy for positive modulation of cannabinoid receptors.

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