Endocannabinoids are amides, esters and ethers of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which act as new lipid mediators. Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine; AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are the main endogenous agonists of cannabinoid receptors, able to mimic several pharmacological effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active principle of Cannabis sativa preparations like hashish and marijuana. The activity of AEA at its receptors is limited by cellular uptake through a specific membrane transporter, followed by intracellular degradation by a fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Growing evidence demonstrates that FAAH is the critical regulator of the endogenous levels of AEA, suggesting that it may serve as an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of human disorders. In particular, FAAH inhibitors may be next generation therapeutic drugs of potential value for the treatment of pathologies in the central nervous system and in the periphery. Here, the potential applications of these inhibitors for human disease will be reviewed, with an emphasis on the properties of hydro(pero)xy-anandamides. In fact, these oxygenated derivatives of AEA are the most powerful inhibitors of FAAH of natural origin as yet discovered. In addition, new insights into the promoter region of FAAH gene will be presented, and the therapeutic potential of mimetics of transcription factors of this gene in the management of human infertility will be discussed.
Keywords: Cannabinoid receptor, endocannabinoid, enzyme inhibitor, gene promoter, hydroperoxide, lipoxygenase, metabolism, vanilloid receptor
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