Role for fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) in the leptin-mediated effects on feeding and energy balance

Balsevich G, Sticht M, Bowles NP, Singh A, Lee TT, Li Z, Chelikani PK, Lee FS, Borgland SL, Hillard CJ, McEwen BS, Hill MN
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018; 115(29):7605-7610.


Endocannabinoid signaling regulates feeding and metabolic processes and has been linked to obesity development. Several hormonal signals, such as glucocorticoids and ghrelin, regulate feeding and metabolism by engaging the endocannabinoid system. Similarly, studies have suggested that leptin interacts with the endocannabinoid system, yet the mechanism and functional relevance of this interaction remain elusive. Therefore, we explored the interaction between leptin and endocannabinoid signaling with a focus on fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the primary degradative enzyme for the endocannabinoid N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide; AEA). Mice deficient in leptin exhibited elevated hypothalamic AEA levels and reductions in FAAH activity while leptin administration to WT mice reduced AEA content and increased FAAH activity. Following high fat diet exposure, mice developed resistance to the effects of leptin administration on hypothalamic AEA content and FAAH activity. At a functional level, pharmacological inhibition of FAAH was sufficient to prevent leptin-mediated effects on body weight and food intake. Using a novel knock-in mouse model recapitulating a common human polymorphism (FAAH C385A; rs324420), which reduces FAAH activity, we investigated whether human genetic variance in FAAH affects leptin sensitivity. While WT (CC) mice were sensitive to leptin-induced reductions in food intake and body weight gain, low-expressing FAAH (AA) mice were unresponsive. These data demonstrate that FAAH activity is required for leptin's hypophagic effects and, at a translational level, suggest that a genetic variant in the FAAH gene contributes to differences in leptin sensitivity in human populations.