Potential of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), Monoacylglycerol Lipase (MAGL), and Diacylglycerol Lipase (DAGL) Enzymes as Targets for Obesity Treatment: A Narrative Review

Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Dec 17;14(12):1316. doi: 10.3390/ph14121316.


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an integral role in maintaining metabolic homeostasis and may affect hunger, caloric intake, and nutrient absorption. Obesity has been associated with higher levels of the endogenous cannabinoid transmitters (endocannabinoids). Therefore, the ECS is an important target in obesity treatment. Modulating the enzymes that synthesize and degrade endocannabinoids, namely fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), and diacylglycerol lipase (DAGL), may be a promising strategy to treat obesity. This review aims to synthesize all studies investigating pharmacological or genetic manipulation of FAAH, MAGL, or DAGL enzymes in association with obesity-related measures. Pharmacological inhibition or genetic deletion of FAAH tended to promote an obesogenic state in animal models, though the relationships between human FAAH polymorphisms and obesity-related outcomes were heterogeneous, which could be due to FAAH having both pro-appetitive and anti-appetitive substrates. Genetic deletion of Mgll and Dagla as well as pharmacological inhibition of DAGL tended to reduce body weight and improve metabolic state in animal studies, though the effects of Mgll manipulation were tissue-dependent. Monitoring changes in body weight in ongoing clinical trials of FAAH inhibitors may clarify whether FAAH inhibition is a potential therapeutic strategy for treatment obesity. More preclinical work is needed to characterize the role of MAGL and DAGL modulation in obesity-related outcomes.

Keywords: DAGL; FAAH; MAGL; endocannabinoid system; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review