Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Aruna Kilaru

Committee Members

Cecillia A McIntosh, Christopher L Pritchett, Douglas Thewke, Sona Pandey


Endocannabinoid signaling is well studied in mammals and known to be involved in numerous pathological and physiological processes. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) terminates endocannabinoid signaling in mammals. In Physcomitrella patens, we identified nine orthologs of FAAH (PpFAAH1 to PpFAAH9) with the characteristic catalytic triad and amidase signature sequence. Kinetics of PpFAAH1 showed specificity towards anandamide (AEA) at 37°C and pH 8.0. Further biophysical and bioinformatic analyses revealed that, structurally, PpFAAH1 to PpFAAH4 were closely associated to the plant FAAH whereas PpFAAH6 to PpFAAH9 were more closely associated to the animal FAAH. A substrate entry gate or ‘dynamic paddle’ in FAAH is fully formed in vertebrates but absent or not fully developed in non-vertebrates and plants. In planta analysis revealed that PpFAAH responded differently with saturated and unsaturated N-acylethanolamines (NAEs). In vivo amidohydrolase activity showed specificity associated with developmental stages. Additionally, overexpression of PpFAAH1 indicated the need for NAEs in developmental transition. To understand and identify key molecules related to endocannabinoid signaling in P. patens, we used high-throughput RNA sequencing. We analyzed temporal expression of mRNA and long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) in response not only to exogenous anandamide but also its precursor arachidonic acid and abscisic acid (ABA, a stress hormone). From the 40 RNA-seq libraries generated, we identified 4244 novel lncRNAs. The highest number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) for both mRNA and lncRNA were detected on short-term exposure (1 h) to AEA. Furthermore, gene ontology enrichment analysis showed that 17 genes related to activation of the G protein-coupled receptor signaling pathway were highly expressed along with a number of genes associated with organelle relocation and localization. We identified key signaling components of AEA that showed significant difference when compared with ABA. This study provides a fundamental understanding of novel endocannabinoid signaling in early land plants and a future direction to elucidate its functional role.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Biochemistry Commons