Correlating FAAH and anandamide cellular uptake inhibition using N-alkylcarbamate inhibitors: from ultrapotent to hyperpotent

Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Dec 15;92(4):669-89. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.09.020. Epub 2014 Nov 4.


Besides the suggested role of a putative endocannabinoid membrane transporter mediating the cellular uptake of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA), this process is intrinsically coupled to AEA degradation by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Differential blockage of each mechanism is possible using specific small-molecule inhibitors. Starting from the natural product-derived 2E,4E-dodecadiene scaffold previously shown to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a series of diverse N-alkylcarbamates were prepared with the aim of generating novel ECS modulators. While being inactive at cannabinoid receptors and monoacylglycerol lipase, these N-alkylcarbamates showed potent to ultrapotent picomolar FAAH inhibition in U937 cells. Overall, a highly significant correlation (Spearman's rho=0.91) was found between the inhibition of FAAH and AEA cellular uptake among 54 compounds. Accordingly, in HMC-1 cells lacking FAAH expression the effect on AEA cellular uptake was dramatically reduced. Unexpectedly, 3-(4,5-dihydrothiazol-2-yl)phenyl carbamates and the 3-(1,2,3-thiadiazol-4-yl)phenyl carbamates WOBE490, WOBE491 and WOBE492 showed a potentiation of cellular AEA uptake inhibition in U937 cells, resulting in unprecedented femtomolar (hyperpotent) IC50 values. Potential methodological issues and the role of cellular accumulation of selected probes were investigated. It is shown that albumin impacts the potency of specific N-alkylcarbamates and, more importantly, that accumulation of FAAH inhibitors can significantly increase their effect on cellular AEA uptake. Taken together, this series of N-alkylcarbamates shows a FAAH-dependent inhibition of cellular AEA uptake, which can be strongly potentiated using specific head group modifications. These findings provide a rational basis for the development of hyperpotent AEA uptake inhibitors mediated by ultrapotent FAAH inhibition.

Keywords: (+)-R-WIN 55,212-2 (PubChem CID: 5311501); Anandamide (PubChem CID: 5281969); Anandamide transport; Anandamide uptake inhibition; BMS309403 (PubChem CID: 16122583); Carbamate; Correlation; Diclofenac (PubChem CID: 3033); Dipyridamole (PubChem CID: 3108); FAAH inhibition; Guineensine (PubChem CID: 6442405); Indomethacin (PubChem CID: 3715); LY2183240 (PubChem CID: 11507802); MK-571 (PubChem CID: 5281888); URB597 (PubChem CID: 1383884); Verapamil (PubChem CID: 62969).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / pharmacokinetics*
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Carbamates / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Carbamates
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • anandamide