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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007 May;32(4):350-7. Epub 2007 Mar 27.

Estrogen recruits the endocannabinoid system to modulate emotionality.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T1Z4.


Estrogen administration elicits anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects in female rats; however, the mechanism of this effect is unknown. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the enzyme which degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide, has been shown to be regulated by estrogen. Thus, we examined if the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of estrogen implicated the endocannabinoid system. In the first experiment, ovariectomized female rats were administered a single injection of 17beta-estradiol (10 microg) or oil, and 48 h later were given an injection of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist AM251 (1 mg/kg) or vehicle. One hour after AM251 or vehicle administration, subjects were tested in either the open field test (OFT), elevated plus maze (EPM) or the forced swim test (FST). Estradiol treatment resulted in a significant increase in open arm entries in the EPM and time spent in the center quadrant of the OFT, which were reversed by co-treatment with AM251, suggesting that endocannabinoids are integral to the anxiolytic effects of estrogen. No significant effects of estradiol or AM251 were seen in the FST. In the second experiment, administration of the FAAH inhibitor URB597 (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg) increased open arm entries in the EPM and time spent in the center quadrant in the OFT as well as significantly reduced immobility in the FST. Collectively, these data demonstrate that estrogen may elicit changes in emotional behavior through an endocannabinoid mechanism, and suggest that inhibition of FAAH represents a therapeutic target for anxiety and depression in women.

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