Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) Inhibition Modulates Amyloid-Beta-Induced Microglia Polarization

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jul 19;22(14):7711. doi: 10.3390/ijms22147711.


The ability of endocannabinoid (eCB) to change functional microglial phenotype can be explored as a possible target for therapeutic intervention. Since the inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the main catabolic enzyme of anandamide (AEA), may provide beneficial effects in mice model of Alzheimer's disease (AD)-like pathology, we aimed at determining whether the FAAH inhibitor URB597 might target microglia polarization and alter the cytoskeleton reorganization induced by the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ). The morphological evaluation showed that Aβ treatment increased the surface area of BV-2 cells, which acquired a flat and polygonal morphology. URB597 treatment partially rescued the control phenotype of BV-2 cells when co-incubated with Aβ. Moreover, URB597 reduced both the increase of Rho protein activation in Aβ-treated BV-2 cells and the Aβ-induced migration of BV-2 cells, while an increase of Cdc42 protein activation was observed in all samples. URB597 also increased the number of BV-2 cells involved in phagocytosis. URB597 treatment induced the polarization of microglial cells towards an anti-inflammatory phenotype, as demonstrated by the decreased expression of iNOS and pro-inflammatory cytokines along with the parallel increase of Arg-1 and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Taken together, these data suggest that FAAH inhibition promotes cytoskeleton reorganization, regulates phagocytosis and cell migration processes, thus driving microglial polarization towards an anti-inflammatory phenotype.

Keywords: M1/M2 phenotypes; N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA); URB597; actin cytoskeleton; cell migration; fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH); microglia; neuroinflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amidohydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism
  • Benzamides / pharmacology*
  • Carbamates / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Benzamides
  • Carbamates
  • Cytokines
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • amyloid beta-protein (25-36)
  • cyclohexyl carbamic acid 3'-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • anandamide