FABP1: A Novel Hepatic Endocannabinoid and Cannabinoid Binding Protein

Biochemistry. 2016 Sep 20;55(37):5243-55. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.6b00446. Epub 2016 Sep 2.


Endocannabinoids (ECs) and cannabinoids are very lipophilic molecules requiring the presence of cytosolic binding proteins that chaperone these molecules to intracellular targets. While three different fatty acid binding proteins (FABP3, -5, and -7) serve this function in brain, relatively little is known about how such hydrophobic ECs and cannabinoids are transported within the liver. The most prominent hepatic FABP, liver fatty acid binding protein (FABP1 or L-FABP), has high affinity for arachidonic acid (ARA) and ARA-CoA, suggesting that FABP1 may also bind ARA-derived ECs (AEA and 2-AG). Indeed, FABP1 bound ECs with high affinity as shown by displacement of FABP1-bound fluorescent ligands and by quenching of FABP1 intrinsic tyrosine fluorescence. FABP1 also had high affinity for most non-ARA-containing ECs, FABP1 inhibitors, EC uptake/hydrolysis inhibitors, and phytocannabinoids and less so for synthetic cannabinoid receptor (CBR) agonists and antagonists. The physiological impact was examined with liver from wild-type (WT) versus FABP1 gene-ablated (LKO) male mice. As shown by liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, FABP1 gene ablation significantly increased hepatic levels of AEA, 2-AG, and 2-OG. These increases were not due to increased protein levels of EC synthetic enzymes (NAPEPLD and DAGL) or a decreased level of EC degradative enzyme (FAAH) but correlated with complete loss of FABP1, a decreased level of SCP2 (8-fold less prevalent than FABP1, but also binds ECs), and a decreased level of degradative enzymes (NAAA and MAGL). These data indicated that FABP1 not only is the most prominent endocannabinoid and cannabinoid binding protein but also impacts hepatic endocannabinoid levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism*


  • Endocannabinoids
  • FABP1 protein, human
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid