Biosynthesis and inactivation of N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide) and N-docosahexaenoylethanolamine in bovine retina

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 Oct 15;370(2):300-7. doi: 10.1006/abbi.1999.1410.


N-Arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide; AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), the two proposed endogenous agonists of cannabinoid receptors, and the putative AEA biosynthetic precursor, N-arachidonoylphosphatidylethanolamine (NArPE), were identified in bovine retina by means of gas chromatography-electron impact mass spectrometry (GC-EIMS). This technique also allowed us to identify N-docosahexanoylethanolamine (DHEA) and 2-docosahexanoylglycerol (2-DHG), two derivatives of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the most abundant fatty acids esterified in retina phospholipids and necessary for optimal retinal function. N-Docosahexaenoylphosphatidylethanolamine (NDHPE), the potential biosynthetic precursor for DHEA, was also found. The fatty acid composition of the sn-1 and sn-2 positions of bovine retina's most abundant phospholipid classes, also determined here, were in agreement with a phospholipid-dependent mechanism for 2-AG, 2-DHG, AEA, and DHEA biosynthesis, as very high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including DHA, were found on the sn-2 position of phosphatidylcholine (PC) and -ethanolamine (PE), and measurable amounts of di-docosahexanoyl-PC and -PE, two potential biosynthetic precursors of NDHPE, were detected. Accordingly, we found that isolated particulate fractions from bovine retina could release AEA and DHEA in a time-dependent fashion. Finally, a fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH)-like activity with subcellular distribution and pH dependency similar to those reported for the brain enzyme was also detected in bovine retina. This activity was inhibited by FAAH inhibitors, phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride and arachidonoyltrifluoromethylketone, and appeared to recognize DHEA with a lower efficiency than AEA. These data indicate that AEA and its congeners may play a physiological role in the mammalian eye.

MeSH terms

  • Amides / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Amides / metabolism*
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Arachidonic Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Ethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Glycerides / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists
  • Retina / metabolism*


  • Amides
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycerides
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • anandamide