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The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide produces delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-like discriminative and neurochemical effects that are enhanced by inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase but not by inhibition of anandamide transport.


Anandamide is an endogenous ligand for brain cannabinoid CB(1) receptors, but its behavioral effects are difficult to measure due to rapid inactivation. Here we used a drug-discrimination procedure to test the hypothesis that anandamide, given i.v. or i.p., would produce discriminative effects like those of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in rats when its metabolic inactivation was inhibited. We also used an in vivo microdialysis procedure to investigate the effects of anandamide, given i.v. or i.p., on dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens shell in rats. When injected i.v., methanandamide (AM-356), a metabolically stable anandamide analog, produced clear dose-related THC-like discriminative effects, but anandamide produced THC-like discriminative effects only at a high 10-mg/kg dose that almost eliminated lever-press responding. Cyclohexyl carbamic acid 3'-carbamoyl-biphenyl-3-yl ester (URB-597), an inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the main enzyme responsible for metabolic inactivation of anandamide, produced no THC-like discriminative effects alone but dramatically potentiated discriminative effects of anandamide, with 3 mg/kg anandamide completely substituting for the THC training dose. URB-597 also potentiated the ability of anandamide to increase dopamine levels in the accumbens shell. The THC-like discriminative-stimulus effects of anandamide after URB-597 and methanandamide were blocked by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant, but not the vanilloid VR1 receptor antagonist capsazepine. Surprisingly, the anandamide transport inhibitors N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-eicosa-5,8,11,14-tetraenamide (AM-404) and N-(3-furylmethyl)eicosa-5,8,11,14-tetraenamide (UCM-707) did not potentiate THC-like discriminative effects of anandamide or its dopamine-elevating effects. Thus, anandamide has THC-like discriminative and neurochemical effects that are enhanced after treatment with a FAAH inhibitor but not after treatment with transport inhibitors, suggesting brain area specificity for FAAH versus transport/FAAH inactivation of anandamide.

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