Discovery of a Mammalian Endocannabinoid Ligand and Its Metabolites in Early Land Plants

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The endogenous arachidonate-based lipids that activate cannabinoid receptors have been well characterized in mammals. In plants only 12-18 carbon fatty acid ethanolamides have been identifi ed so far and have been shown to modulate a number of physiological processes including seed and seedling development. However, since moss plants contain arachidonic acid, we hypothesized the occurrence of arachidonate-based metabolites in their tissues. Using selective lipidomics approach, we identifi ed the presence of anandamide or arachidonylethanolamide (a 20C polyunsaturated fatty acid ethanolamide) and its precursors, in Physcomitrella patens that were previously not reported in plants. Comprehensive lipid profi les for protonema and gametophyte tissues of moss also revealed the occurrence of other saturated and unsaturated fatty acid ethanolamides and a distinct phospholipid and galactolipid composition. Further studies showed that anandamide, like abscisic acid, inhibits the growth of gametophytes more severely than saturated fatty acid ethanolamides. Our current studies are focused on understanding the physiological and developmental role of polyunsaturated fatty acid ethanolamides in nonseed plants. In conclusion, discovery of anandamide in moss provided us with an exciting possibility to identify fatty acid ethanolamide metabolic pathway in early land plants and elucidate receptor-mediated endocannabinoid signaling responses in plants that is akin to mammals.


Raleigh, NC

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