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RNA Interference Suggests a Primary Role for Monoacylglycerol Lipase in the Degradation of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol


The endogenous cannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is produced by neurons and other cells in a stimulus-dependent manner and undergoes rapid biological inactivation through transport into cells and catalytic hydrolysis. The enzymatic pathways responsible for 2-AG degradation are only partially understood. We have shown previously that overexpression of monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL), a cytosolic serine hydrolase that cleaves 1- and 2-monoacylglycerols to fatty acid and glycerol, reduces stimulus-dependent 2-AG accumulation in primary cultures of rat brain neurons. We report here that RNA interference-mediated silencing of MGL expression greatly enhances 2-AG accumulation in HeLa cells. After stimulation with the calcium ionophore ionomycin, 2-AG levels in MGL-silenced cells were comparable with those found in cells in which 2-AG degradation had been blocked using methyl arachidonyl fluorophosphonate, a nonselective inhibitor of 2-AG hydrolysis. The results indicate that MGL plays an important role in the degradation of endogenous 2-AG in intact HeLa cells. Furthermore, immunodepletion experiments show that MGL accounts for at least 50% of the total 2-AG-hydrolyzing activity in soluble fractions of rat brain, suggesting that this enzyme also contributes to 2-AG deactivation in the central nervous system.

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