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Pharmacol Res. 2011 Sep;64(3):226-34. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2011.04.010. Epub 2011 May 11.

Enhancement of endocannabinoid signaling with JZL184, an inhibitor of the 2-arachidonoylglycerol hydrolyzing enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase, produces anxiolytic effects under conditions of high environmental aversiveness in rats.

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Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior Program, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States.


Dysregulation in signaling of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is implicated in hyperresponsiveness to stress. We hypothesized that blockade of monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL), the primary enzyme responsible for 2-AG deactivation in vivo, would produce context-dependent anxiolytic effects in rats. Environmental aversiveness was manipulated by varying illumination of an elevated plus maze. Percentage open arm time and numbers of open and closed arm entries were measured in rats receiving a single intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of either vehicle, the MGL inhibitor JZL184 (1-8mg/kg), the benzodiazepine diazepam (1mg/kg), the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor antagonist rimonabant (1mg/kg), or JZL184 (8mg/kg) coadministered with rimonabant (1mg/kg). JZL184 (8mg/kg) produced anxiolytic-like effects (i.e., increased percentage open arm time and number of open arm entries) under high, but not low, levels of environmental aversiveness. Diazepam produced anxiolytic effects in either context. Rimonabant blocked the anxiolytic-like effects of JZL184, consistent with mediation by CB(1). Anxiolytic effects of JZL184 were preserved following chronic (8mg/kg per day×6 days) administration. Chronic and acute JZL184 treatment similarly enhanced behavioral sensitivity to an exogenous cannabinoid (WIN55,212-2; 2.5mg/kg i.p.) 24 or 72h following the terminal injection, suggesting a pervasive effect of MGL inhibition on the endocannabinoid system. We attribute our results to alterations in emotion rather than locomotor activity as JZL184 did not alter the number of closed arm entries in the plus maze or produce motor ataxia in the bar test. Our results demonstrate that JZL184 has beneficial, context-dependent effects on anxiety in rats, presumably via inhibition of MGL-mediated hydrolysis of 2-AG. These data warrant further testing of MGL inhibitors to elucidate the functional role of 2-AG in controlling anxiety and stress responsiveness. Our data further implicate a role for 2-AG in the regulation of emotion and validate MGL as a therapeutic target.

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