Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a membrane-bound homodimeric enzyme that in vivo controls content and biological activity of N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and other relevant bioactive lipids termed endocannabinoids. Parallel orientation of FAAH monomers likely allows both subunits to simultaneously recruit and cleave substrates. Here, we show full inhibition of human and rat FAAH by means of enzyme inhibitors used at a homodimer:inhibitor stoichiometric ratio of 1:1, implying that occupation of only one of the two active sites of FAAH is enough to fully block catalysis. Single W445Y substitution in rat FAAH displayed the same activity as the wild-type, but failed to show full inhibition at the homodimer:inhibitor 1:1 ratio. Instead, F432A mutant exhibited reduced specific activity but was fully inhibited at the homodimer:inhibitor 1:1 ratio. Kinetic analysis of AEA hydrolysis by rat FAAH and its F432A mutant demonstrated a Hill coefficient of ~1.6, that instead was ~1.0 in the W445Y mutant. Of note, also human FAAH catalysed an allosteric hydrolysis of AEA, showing a Hill coefficient of ~1.9. Taken together, this study demonstrates an unprecedented allosterism of FAAH, and represents a case of communication between two enzyme subunits seemingly controlled by a single amino acid (W445) at the dimer interface. In the light of extensive attempts and subsequent failures over the last decade to develop effective drugs for human therapy, these findings pave the way to the rationale design of new molecules that, by acting as positive or negative heterotropic effectors of FAAH, may control more efficiently its activity.
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