An Endocannabinoid Catabolic Enzyme Faah and Its Paralogs in an Early Land Plant Reveal Evolutionary and Functional Relationship With Eukaryotic Orthologs

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Endocannabinoids were known to exist only among Animalia but recent report of their occurrence in early land plants prompted us to study its function and metabolism. In mammals, anandamide, as an endocannabinoid ligand, mediates several neurological and physiological processes, which are terminated by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). We identified nine orthologs of FAAH in the moss Physcomitrella patens (PpFAAH1 to PpFAAH9) with amidase signature and catalytic triad. The optimal amidase activity for PpFAAH1 was at 37 °C and pH 8.0, with higher specificity to anandamide. Further, the phylogeny and predicted structural analyses of the nine paralogs revealed that PpFAAH1 to PpFAAH4 were closely related to plant FAAH while PpFAAH6 to PpFAAH9 were to the rat FAAH, categorized based on the membrane binding cap, membrane access channel and substrate binding pocket. We also identified that a true ‘dynamic paddle’ that is responsible for tighter regulation of FAAH is recent in vertebrates and absent or not fully emerged in plants and non-vertebrates. These data reveal evolutionary and functional relationship among eukaryotic FAAH orthologs and features that contribute to versatility and tighter regulation of FAAH. Future studies will utilize FAAH mutants of moss to elucidate the role of anandamide in early land plants.

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