Biochemical changes in endocannabinoid system are expressed in platelets of female but not male migraineurs

Cephalalgia. 2006 Mar;26(3):277-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2005.01031.x.


The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide (AEA) plays important roles in modulating pain. Head pain is an almost universal human experience, yet primary headache disorders, such as migraine without aura (MoA) or episodic tension-type headache (ETTH), can represent a serious threat to well-being when frequent and disabling. We assessed the discriminating role of endocannabinoids among patients with ETTH or MoA, and control subjects. We measured the activity of AEA hydrolase and AEA transporter, and the level of cannabinoid receptors in peripheral platelets from MoA, ETTH and healthy controls. Sixty-nine headache patients and 36 controls were selected. Diagnosis of headache type was made according to the International Headache Society criteria. We observed significant sex differences concerning AEA membrane transporter and fatty acid amide hydrolase activity in all groups. An increase in the activity of AEA hydrolase and AEA transporter was found in female but not male migraineurs. Cannabinoid receptors were the same in all groups. Here we show that the endocannabinoid system in human platelets is altered in female but not male migraneurs. Our results suggest that in migraineur women an increased AEA degradation by platelets, and hence a reduced concentration of AEA in blood, might reduce the pain threshold and possibly explain the prevalence of migraine in women. The involvement of the endocannabinoid system in migraine is new and broadens our knowledge of this widespread and multifactorial disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amidohydrolases / blood
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Arachidonic Acids / blood
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / blood
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / blood
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Sex Factors


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • anandamide