The endocannabinoid system is affected by cholesterol dyshomeostasis: Insights from a murine model of Niemann Pick type C disease

Sergio Oddi, P. Caporali, Jessica Dragotto, Antonio Totaro, Marzia Maiolati, L. Scipioni, Clotilde Beatrice Angelucci, Cristina Orsini, S. Canterini, Cinzia Rapino, M. Maccarrone, Maria Teresa Fiorenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dyshomeostasis of intracellular cholesterol trafficking is typical of the Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) disease, a fatal inherited lysosomal storage disorder presenting with progressive neurodegeneration and visceral organ involvement. In light of the well-established relevance of cholesterol in regulating the endocannabinoid (eCB) system expression and activity, this study was aimed at elucidating whether NPC disease-related cholesterol dyshomeostasis affects the functional status of the brain eCB system. To this end, we exploited a murine model of NPC deficiency for determining changes in the expression and activity of the major molecular components of the eCB signaling, including cannabinoid type-1 and type-2 (CB1 and CB2) receptors, their ligands, N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), along with their main synthesizing/inactivating enzymes. We found a robust alteration of distinct components of the eCB system in various brain regions, including the cortex, hippocampus, striatum and cerebellum, of Npc1-deficient compared to wild-type pre-symptomatic mice. Changes of the eCB component expression and activity differ from one brain structure to another, although 2-AG and AEA are consistently found to decrease and increase in each structure, respectively. The thorough biochemical characterization of the eCB system was accompanied by a behavioral characterization of Npc1-deficient mice using a number of paradigms evaluating anxiety, locomotor activity, spatial learning/memory abilities, and coping response to stressful experience. Our findings provide the first description of an early and region-specific alteration of the brain eCB system in NPC and suggest that defective eCB signaling could contribute at producing and/or worsening the neurological symptoms of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104531
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Behavioral phenotyping
  • Endocannabinoid system biochemistry
  • Genetic mouse models
  • Lysosomal storage disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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