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Genetic deletion of fatty acid amide hydrolase alters emotional behavior and serotonergic transmission in the dorsal raphe, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus.


Pharmacological blockade of the anandamide-degrading enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), produces CB(1) receptor (CB(1)R)-mediated analgesic, anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects in murids. Using behavioral and electrophysiological approaches, we have characterized the emotional phenotype and serotonergic (5-HT) activity of mice lacking the FAAH gene in comparison to their wild type counterparts, and their response to a challenge of the CB(1)R antagonist, rimonabant. FAAH null-mutant (FAAH(-/-)) mice exhibited reduced immobility in the forced swim and tail suspension tests, predictive of antidepressant activity, which was attenuated by rimonabant. FAAH(-/-) mice showed an increase in the duration of open arm visits in the elevated plus maze, and a decrease in thigmotaxis and an increase in exploratory rearing displayed in the open field, indicating anxiolytic-like effects that were reversed by rimonabant. Rimonabant also prolonged the initiation of feeding in the novelty-suppressed feeding test. Electrophysiological recordings revealed a marked 34.68% increase in dorsal raphe 5-HT neural firing that was reversed by rimonabant in a subset of neurons exhibiting high firing rates (33.15% mean decrease). The response of the prefrontocortical pyramidal cells to the 5-HT(2A/2C) agonist (+/-)-1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl)-2-aminopropane ((+/-)-DOI) revealed desensitized 5-HT(2A/2C) receptors, likely linked to the observed anxiolytic-like behaviors. The hippocampal pyramidal response to the 5-HT(1A) antagonist, WAY-100635, indicates enhanced tonus on the hippocampal 5-HT(1A) heteroreceptors, a hallmark of antidepressant-like action. Together, these results suggest that FAAH genetic deletion enhances anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects, paralleled by altered 5-HT transmission and postsynaptic 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2A/2C) receptor function.

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