Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Structure of pain-modulating enzyme described by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute

29.11.2002


A group of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have solved the structure of an enzyme that modulates central nervous system (CNS) functions such as pain perception, cognition, feeding, sleep, and locomotor activity.

The enzyme, described in the latest issue of the journal Science, is called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), and it breaks down certain fatty signaling molecules that reside in the lipid membranes of CNS cells. The TSRI group reports that FAAH modulates the action of these fatty signaling molecules through an unusual mechanism of action whereby it scoops them out of the cell membranes and chews them up.

"I envision that if someone could make a specific inhibitor to FAAH, you could, in principal, get pain relief without any of the side effects," says Benjamin Cravatt, one of the paper’s lead authors and an investigator in TSRI’s Department of Cell Biology, Department of Chemistry, and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology.



"As soon as we had the view of the active site, we knew FAAH could be used to make lead clinical candidates," adds Raymond Stevens, who is a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Chemistry at TSRI and the other lead author on the paper. "The deep pocket with well-defined cavities provides the guidance to take the currently available tight binding inhibitors and improve on their specificity and pharmakokinetic properties."

Pain Management and FAAH

Easing pain is practically synonymous with practicing medicine, and since before the days of Hippocrates, doctors have sought the best ways of doing this--looking for compounds that not only ease pain, but do so as fast, effectively, and lastingly as possible--and without any unwanted side effects.

Every analgesic, from opiates to hypnotism to electroshocks to balms, have side effects, and therein lies the rub: whether relieving the pain or the side effects is more pressing.

One compound that has been hotly debated in the last 10 years is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. The reason THC works is that it mimics the action of natural cannabinoids that the body produces in signaling cascades in response to a peripheral pain stimulus. THC binds to "CB-1" receptors on cells on the rostral ventromedial medulla, a pain-modulating center of the brain, decreasing sensitivity to pain.

Unfortunately, the receptors that THC bind to are also widely expressed in other parts of the brain, such as in the memory and information-processing centers of the hippocampus. Binding to nerve cells of the hippocampus and other cells elsewhere in the body, THC creates a range of side effects as it activates CB-1 mediated signaling--including distorted perception, difficulty in problem-solving, loss of coordination, and increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, and panic attacks.

The challenge posed by THC and other cannabinoids is to find a way to use them to produce effective, long-lasting relief from pain without the deleterious side effects. Now Cravatt and Stevens think they know just how to do that.

The solution, as they see it, is to increase the efficacy of the natural, endogenous cannabinoids ("endocannabinoids") the body produces to modulate pain sensations.

"When you feel pain, you release endocannabinoids [which provide some natural pain relief]," says Cravatt. "Then the amplitude and duration of their activity are regulated by how fast they are broken down."

In particular, the body releases an endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide, a name derived from the Sanskrit word meaning "internal bliss." When the body senses pain, anandamide binds to CB-1 and nullifies pain by blocking the signaling. However, this effect is weak and short-lived as FAAH quickly metabolizes the anandamide--the compound has a half-life of only a few minutes in vivo.

In some ways, THC is superior to anandamide as a pain reliever because it is not as readily metabolized by FAAH. But THC goes on to suppress cannabinoid receptor activity all over the body. This, coupled with the fact that it is a controlled substance, makes THC an unattractive target for developing therapeutics.

FAAH is much more attractive target for pain therapy because by inhibiting FAAH, you would increase the longevity of anandamide molecules--preventing their breakdown and allowing them to continue providing some natural pain relief.

The structure that Cravatt, Stevens, and their TSRI colleagues solved should form a template for designing specific inhibitors that control the action of FAAH when the body is sensing pain and releasing anandamide.

The research article, "Structural Adaptations in a Membrane Enzyme that Terminates Endocannabinoid Signaling" is authored by Michael H. Bracey, Michael A. Hanson, Kim R. Masuda, Raymond C. Stevens, and Benjamin F. Cravatt, and appears in the November 29, 2002 issue of the journal Science.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Searle Scholars Program, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, a National Research Service Award, and a Jabinson graduate fellowship.

Jason Bardi | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.scripps.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>