Role of Steroids on the Membrane Binding Ability of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase

Annalaura Sabatucci, Monica Simonetti, Daniel Tortolani, Clotilde B. Angelucci, Enrico Dainese, Mauro MacCarrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a membrane-bound homodimeric enzyme that gets in contact with a lipophilic substrate in the lipid bilayer, and then cleaves it into water soluble products. FAAH plays a critical role in modulating in vivo content and biological activity of endocannabinoids (eCBs), and its function is affected by membrane lipids. Increasing evidence suggests that also steroids can modulate endocannabinoid signaling, both in the central nervous system and at the periphery. Methods: In this study, we interrogated the effect of six steroids with relevant biological activity (testosterone, hydrocortisone, estradiol, pregnenolone, progesterone, and cortisone) on the membrane binding ability of rat FAAH. The experimental data analysis obtained by Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer Spectroscopy was paralleled by computational docking analysis. Results: Our data revealed distinct effects of the different steroids on the interaction of rat FAAH with model membranes. Among them, pregnenolone was found to be the most effective in raising rat FAAH affinity for model membranes. A possible binding pocket for steroid molecules was identified by docking analysis in the membrane-embedded region of the enzyme; such a pocket could account for the observed increase of the membrane affinity in the presence of the tested molecules. Conclusions: Overall, the results point to steroids as new regulators of FAAH interaction with membranes, which may impact the biological activity of eCBs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalCannabis and Cannabinoid Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


  • docking
  • FAAH
  • FRET
  • membrane binding
  • pregnenolone
  • steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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