Biomarkers of endocannabinoid system activation in severe obesity

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Background: Obesity is a worldwide epidemic, and severe obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Endocannabinoid system (ECS) signaling in the brain and peripheral tissues is activated in obesity and plays a role in the regulation of body weight. The main research question here was whether quantitative measurement of plasma endocannabinoids, anandamide, and related N-acylethanolamines (NAEs), combined with genotyping for mutations in fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) would identify circulating biomarkers of ECS activation in severe obesity. Methodology/Principal Findings: Plasma samples were obtained from 96 severely obese subjects with body mass index (BMI) of ≥40 kg/m2, and 48 normal weight subjects with BMI of ≤26 kg/m2. Triple-quadrupole mass spectroscopy methods were used to measure plasma ECS analogs. Subjects were genotyped for human FAAH gene mutations. The principal analysis focused on the FAAH 385 C→A (P129T) mutation by comparing plasma ECS metabolite levels in the FAAH 385 minor A allele carriers versus wild-type C/C carriers in both groups. The main finding was significantly elevated mean plasma levels of anandamide (15.1±1.4 pmol/ml) and related NAEs in study subjects that carried the FAAH 385 A mutant alleles versus normal subjects (13.3±1.0 pmol/ml) with wild-type FAAH genotype (p = 0.04), and significance was maintained after controlling for BMI. Conclusions/Significance:Significantly increased levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide and related NAEs were found in carriers of the FAAH 385 A mutant alleles compared with wild-type FAAH controls. This evidence supports endocannabinoid system activation due to the effect of FAAH 385 mutant A genotype on plasma AEA and related NAE analogs. This is the first study to document that FAAH 385 A mutant alleles have a direct effect on elevated plasma levels of anandamide and related NAEs in © 2010 Sipe et al.




Sipe, J. C., Scott, T. M., Murray, S., Harismendy, O., Simon, G. M., Cravatt, B. F., & Waalen, J. (2010). Biomarkers of endocannabinoid system activation in severe obesity. PLoS ONE, 5(1).

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