A new perspective on cannabinoid signalling: complementary localization of fatty acid amide hydrolase and the CB1 receptor in rat brain

Proc Biol Sci. 1998 Nov 7;265(1410):2081-5. doi: 10.1098/rspb.1998.0543.


CB1-type cannabinoid receptors in the brain mediate effects of the drug cannabis. Anandamide and sn-2 arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) are putative endogenous ligands for CB1 receptors, but it is not known which cells in the brain produce these molecules. Recently, an enzyme which catalyses hydrolysis of anandamide and 2-AG, known as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), was identified in mammals. Here we have analysed the distribution of FAAH in rat brain and compared its cellular localization with CB1-type cannabinoid receptors using immunocytochemistry. High concentrations of FAAH activity were detected in the cerebellum, hippocampus and neocortex, regions of the rat brain which are enriched with cannabinoid receptors. Immunocytochemical analysis of these brain regions revealed a complementary pattern of FAAH and CB1 expression with CB1 immunoreactivity occurring in fibres surrounding FAAH-immunoreactive cell bodies and/or dendrites. In the cerebellum, FAAH was expressed in the cell bodies of Purkinje cells and CB1 was expressed in the axons of granule cells and basket cells, neurons which are presynaptic to Purkinje cells. The close correspondence in the distribution of FAAH and CB1 in rat brain and the complementary pattern of FAAH and CB1 expression at the cellular level provides important new evidence that FAAH may participate in cannabinoid signalling mechanisms of the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase