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Expression and Function of the Endocannabinoid Modulating Enzymes Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase and N-Acylphosphatidylethanolamine-Specific Phospholipase D in Endometrial Carcinoma

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posted on 30.04.2020, 10:49 by Thangesweran Ayakannu, Anthony H Taylor, Monica Bari, Nicoletta Mastrangelo, Mauro Maccarrone, Justin C Konje

Background: The concentrations of three N-acylethanolamines (NAEs), anandamide (AEA), N-oleoylethanolamide (OEA), and N-palmitylethanolamide (PEA) are increased in the endometria of women with endometrial cancer (EC). It is widely accepted that plasma levels of these three NAEs are regulated by the actions of the rate-limiting enzymes N-acylphoshatidylethanolamine-specific phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which are synthesizing and degradative, respectively. The expression and activity of these enzymes have not previously been studied in EC.

Methods: FAAH activity in peripheral blood lymphocytes, and transcript and protein expression for FAAH and NAPE-PLD in EC tissues were measured using enzyme, quantitative RT-PCR, and histomorphometry (of immunoreactive tissue sections), respectively. Samples were from 6 post-menopausal women with atrophic endometria (controls) and 34 women with histologically diagnosed EC. Concentrations of the three NAEs also measured in plasma and tissues were correlated with lymphocytic FAAH activity and the NAPE-PLD and FAAH transcript and protein levels.

Results: Peripheral lymphocyte FAAH activity was unaffected in women with EC compared to controls. The FAAH transcript expression level was significantly (p < 0.0001) 75% lower in EC whilst NAPE-PLD levels were not significantly (p = 0.798) increased. In line with the transcript data, a significant (p < 0.0001) tumor type-dependent 70–90% decrease in FAAH protein and significant 4- to 14-fold increase in NAPE-PLD protein (p < 0.0001) was observed in the malignant tissue with more advanced disease having lower FAAH and higher NAPE-PLD expression than less advanced disease. Correlation analyses also confirmed that tissue NAE concentrations were inversely related to FAAH expression and directly correlated to NAPE-PLD expression and the NAPE-PLD/FAAH ratio.

Conclusion: These data support our previous observation of tissue levels of AEA, OEA, and PEA and a role for NAE metabolism in the pathogenesis of EC.


This work was funded by grants from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and miscellaneous income from Post-graduate (MRCOG) courses run by JK at the University of Leicester. Research in MM's laboratory was partly supported by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (PRIN 2010–2011 grant).



Frontiers in Oncology, 2019, 9:1363

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