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Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2019 Mar 13;4(1):42-50. doi: 10.1089/can.2018.0051. eCollection 2019.

Role of Steroids on the Membrane Binding Ability of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase.

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Faculty of Bioscience, and Technology for Food Agriculture and Environment, University of Teramo, Teramo, Italy.
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Teramo, Teramo, Italy.
European Center for Brain Research (CERC)/Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy.
Department of Medicine, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


Background: Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a membrane-bound homodimeric enzyme that gets in contact with a lipophilic substrate in the lipid bilayer, and then cleaves it into water soluble products. FAAH plays a critical role in modulating in vivo content and biological activity of endocannabinoids (eCBs), and its function is affected by membrane lipids. Increasing evidence suggests that also steroids can modulate endocannabinoid signaling, both in the central nervous system and at the periphery. Methods: In this study, we interrogated the effect of six steroids with relevant biological activity (testosterone, hydrocortisone, estradiol, pregnenolone, progesterone, and cortisone) on the membrane binding ability of rat FAAH. The experimental data analysis obtained by Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer Spectroscopy was paralleled by computational docking analysis. Results: Our data revealed distinct effects of the different steroids on the interaction of rat FAAH with model membranes. Among them, pregnenolone was found to be the most effective in raising rat FAAH affinity for model membranes. A possible binding pocket for steroid molecules was identified by docking analysis in the membrane-embedded region of the enzyme; such a pocket could account for the observed increase of the membrane affinity in the presence of the tested molecules. Conclusions: Overall, the results point to steroids as new regulators of FAAH interaction with membranes, which may impact the biological activity of eCBs.


FAAH; FRET; docking; membrane binding; pregnenolone; steroids

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