Publications by authors named "Alessandro Finazzi-Agrò"

71 Publications

Protein Assembly: Defining the Strength of Protein-Protein Interactions Coupling the Theory with Experiments.

Methods Mol Biol 2021 ;2253:77-88

Department of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Rome, Italy.

In this paper we report a procedure to analyze protein homodimer interfaces.We approached the problem by means of a topological methodology. In particular, we analyzed the subunits interface of about 50 homodimers and we have defined a few parameters that allow to organize these proteins in six different classes. The main characteristics of each class of homodimers have been discussed also taking into account their stabilization energy, as reported in the literature from the experimental measurements. A paradigmatic example for each class has been reported and a graphical representation proposed in order to better explain the meaning of the parameters chosen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-1154-8_6DOI Listing
March 2021

Allostery: The Rebound of Proteins.

Methods Mol Biol 2021 ;2253:1-6

Department of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Rome, Italy.

The discovery of hemoglobin allosteric properties is briefly summarized and contextualized in the frame of the main biochemical revelations that characterized the first half of the XX century. In particular, the historical background of DNA, RNA, and protein structure research is recalled and the new role that protein-protein interaction may have on allosteric regulation is discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-1154-8_1DOI Listing
March 2021

Prote-ins.

Biotechnol Appl Biochem 2018 Jan;65(1):5-6

Department of Medicine, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bab.1639DOI Listing
January 2018

Analysis of TAp73-dependent signaling via omics technologies.

J Proteome Res 2013 Sep 22;12(9):4207-20. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

Department of Ecological and Biological Sciences, University of Tuscia, Largo dell'Università, snc, 01100 Viterbo, Italy.

Transactivation-proficient (TA) p73 is a transcription factor belonging to the p53 family, which regulates a variety of biological processes, including neurogenesis, differentiation, apoptosis, and DNA damage checkpoint response. In the present study, we adopted multiple Omics approaches, based upon the simultaneous application of metabolomics, lipidomics, and proteomics, in order to dissect the intracellular pathways activated by p73. As cellular model, we utilized a clone of the human osteosarcoma SAOS-2 cell line that allows the expression of TAp73α in an inducible manner. We found that TAp73α promoted mitochondrial activity (accumulation of metabolic intermediates and up-regulation of proteins related to the Krebs cycle), boosted glutathione homeostasis, increased arginine-citrulline-NO metabolism, altered purine synthesis, and promoted the pentose phosphate pathway toward NADPH accumulation for reducing and biosynthetic purposes. Indeed, lipid metabolism was driven toward the accumulation and oxidation of long-chain fatty acids with pro-apoptotic potential. In parallel, the expression of TAp73α was accompanied by the dephosphorylation of key proteins of the mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint. In conclusion, the obtained results confirm existing evidence from transcriptomics analyses and suggest a role for TAp73α in the regulation of cellular metabolism, cell survival, and cell growth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/pr4005508DOI Listing
September 2013

In vitro and in vivo models of Huntington's disease show alterations in the endocannabinoid system.

FEBS J 2013 Jul 10;280(14):3376-88. Epub 2013 Jun 10.

Department of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, Tor Vergata University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

In this study, we analyzed the components of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in R6/2 mice, a widely used model of Huntington's disease (HD). We measured the endogenous content of N-arachidonoylethanolamine and 2-arachidonoylglycerol and the activity of their biosynthetic enzymes (N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-hydrolyzing phospholipase D and diacylglycerol lipase, respectively) and hydrolytic enzymes [fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase, respectively] and of their target receptors (type 1 cannabinoid receptor, type 2 cannabinoid receptor, and transient receptor potential vanilloid-1) in the brains of wild-type and R6/2 mice of different ages, as well as in the striatum and cortex of 12-week-old animals. In addition, we measured FAAH activity in lymphocytes of R6/2 mice. In the whole brains of 12-week-old R6/2 mice, we found reductions in N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-hydrolyzing phospholipase D activity, diacylglycerol lipase activity and cannabinoid receptor binding, mostly associated with changes in the striatum but not in the cortex, as well as an increase in 2-arachidonoylglycerol content as compared with wild-type littermates, without any other change in ECS elements. Then, our analysis was extended to HD43 cells, an inducible cellular model of HD derived from rat ST14A cells. In both induced and noninduced conditions, we demonstrated a fully functional ECS. Overall, our data suggest that the ECS is differently affected in mouse and human HD, and that HD43 cells are suitable for high-throughput screening of FAAH-oriented drugs affecting HD progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.12329DOI Listing
July 2013

p63 regulates glutaminase 2 expression.

Cell Cycle 2013 May 10;12(9):1395-405. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

Department of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

The transcription factor p63 is critical for many biological processes, including development and maintenance of epidermal tissues and tumorigenesis. Here, we report that the TAp63 isoforms regulate cell metabolism through the induction of the mitochondrial glutaminase 2 (GLS2) gene both in primary cells and tumor cell lines. By ChIP analysis and luciferase assay, we confirmed that TAp63 binds directly to the p53/p63 consensus DNA binding sequence within the GLS2 promoter region. Given the critical role of p63 in epidermal differentiation, we have investigated the regulation of GLS2 expression during this process. GLS2 and TAp63 expression increases during the in vitro differentiation of primary human keratinocytes, and depletion of GLS2 inhibits skin differentiation both at molecular and cellular levels. We found that GLS2 and TAp63 expression are concomitantly induced in cancer cells exposed to oxidative stresses. siRNA-mediated depletion of GLS2 sensitizes cells to ROS-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the TAp63/GLS2 axis can be functionally important as a cellular antioxidant pathway in the absence of p53. Accordingly, we found that GLS2 is upregulated in colon adenocarcinoma. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that GLS2 is a bona fide TAp63 target gene, and that the TAp63-dependent regulation of GLS2 is important for both physiological and pathological processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cc.24478DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674067PMC
May 2013

Surfing the (endo)cannabinoids wave.

FEBS J 2013 May 9;280(9):1873. Epub 2013 Apr 9.

Center of Integrated Research, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

The discovery of the receptors for the most active compound of cannabis/marihuana opened the chase for the intrinsic, physiological ligands, which are collectively termed endocannabinoids. In just a few years, it has become difficult even for the followers of this field to keep up with the endocannabinoids literature, thus we thought it useful to offer the reader at least a compass to navigate such a mare magnum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.12254DOI Listing
May 2013

Epigenetic mechanisms and endocannabinoid signalling.

FEBS J 2013 May 11;280(9):1905-17. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Teramo, Italy.

The endocannabinoid system, composed of endogenous lipids, their target receptors and metabolic enzymes, has been implicated in multiple biological functions in health and disease, both in the central nervous system and in peripheral organs. Despite the exponential growth of experimental evidence on the key role of endocannabinoid signalling in basic cellular processes, and on its potential exploitation for therapeutic interventions, much remains to be clarified about the respective regulatory mechanisms. Epigenetics refers to a set of post-translational modifications that regulate gene expression without causing variation in DNA sequence, endowed with a major impact on signal transduction pathways. The epigenetic machinery includes DNA methylation, histone modifications, nucleosome positioning and non-coding RNAs. Due to the reversibility of epigenetic changes, an emerging field of interest is the possibility of an 'epigenetic therapy' that could possibly be applied also to endocannabinoids. Here, we review current knowledge of epigenetic regulation of endocannabinoid system components under both physiological and pathological conditions, as well as the epigenetic changes induced by endocannabinoid signalling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/febs.12125DOI Listing
May 2013

Rat and human fatty acid amide hydrolases: overt similarities and hidden differences.

Biochim Biophys Acta 2012 Nov 3;1821(11):1425-33. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Neuromed, Pozzilli, Italy.

Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a membrane protein that plays a relevant role in the metabolism of fatty acid amides and esters. It degrades important neurotransmitters such as oleamide and anandamide, and it has been involved in a number of human pathological conditions, representing therefore a valuable target for biochemical and pharmacological research. In this study, we have investigated in vitro the structure-function relationship of rat and human FAAHs. In particular circular dichroism, fluorescence spectroscopy and light scattering measurements have been performed, in order to characterize the structural features of the two proteins, both in the presence and absence of the irreversible inhibitor methoxyarachidonyl-fluorophosphonate. The results demonstrate that the structural dynamics of the two FAAHs are different, despite their high sequence homology and overall similarity in temperature-dependence. Additionally, membrane binding and kinetic assays of both FAAHs indicate that also the functional properties of the two enzymes are different in their interaction with lipid bilayers and with exogenous inhibitors. These findings suggest that pre-clinical studies of FAAH-dependent human diseases based only on animal models should be interpreted with caution, and that the efficacy of new drugs targeted to FAAH should be tested in vitro, on both rat and human enzymes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbalip.2012.07.021DOI Listing
November 2012

Endocannabinoids stimulate human melanogenesis via type-1 cannabinoid receptor.

J Biol Chem 2012 May 19;287(19):15466-78. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, 64100 Teramo, Italy.

We show that a fully functional endocannabinoid system is present in primary human melanocytes (normal human epidermal melanocyte cells), including anandamide (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol, the respective target receptors (CB(1), CB(2), and TRPV1), and their metabolic enzymes. We also show that at higher concentrations AEA induces normal human epidermal melanocyte apoptosis (∼3-fold over controls at 5 μM) through a TRPV1-mediated pathway that increases DNA fragmentation and p53 expression. However, at lower concentrations, AEA and other CB(1)-binding endocannabinoids dose-dependently stimulate melanin synthesis and enhance tyrosinase gene expression and activity (∼3- and ∼2-fold over controls at 1 μM). This CB(1)-dependent activity was fully abolished by the selective CB(1) antagonist SR141716 or by RNA interference of the receptor. CB(1) signaling engaged p38 and p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinases, which in turn activated the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein and the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor. Silencing of tyrosinase or microphthalmia-associated transcription factor further demonstrated the involvement of these proteins in AEA-induced melanogenesis. In addition, CB(1) activation did not engage the key regulator of skin pigmentation, cyclic AMP, showing a major difference compared with the regulation of melanogenesis by α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone through melanocortin 1 receptor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M111.314880DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3346111PMC
May 2012

5-Lipoxygenase-dependent apoptosis of human lymphocytes in the International Space Station: data from the ROALD experiment.

FASEB J 2012 May 17;26(5):1791-8. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Piazza A. Moro 45, I-64100 Teramo, Italy.

The functional adaptation of the immune system to the surrounding environment is also a fundamental issue in space. It has been suggested that a decreased number of lymphocytes might be a cause of immunosuppression, possibly due to the induction of apoptosis. Early activation of 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) might play a central role in the initiation of the apoptotic program. The goal of the role of apoptosis in lymphocyte depression (ROALD) experiment, flown on the International Space Station as part of the BIO-4 mission of the European Space Agency, was to ascertain the induction of apoptosis in human lymphocytes under authentic microgravity, and to elucidate the possible involvement of 5-LOX. Our results demonstrate that exposure of human lymphocytes to microgravity for 48 h onboard the ISS remarkably increased apoptotic hallmarks such as DNA fragmentation (∼3-fold compared to ground-based controls) and cleaved-poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) protein expression (∼3-fold), as well as mRNA levels of apoptosis-related markers such as p53 (∼3-fold) and calpain (∼4-fold); these changes were paralleled by an early increase of 5-LOX activity (∼2-fold). Our findings provide a molecular background for the immune dysfunction observed in astronauts during space missions, and reveal potential new markers to monitor health status of ISS crew members.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.11-199406DOI Listing
May 2012

Characterization of monomeric substates of ascorbate oxidase.

FEBS J 2011 May 30;278(9):1585-93. Epub 2011 Mar 30.

NAST Centre, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Ascorbate oxidase (AAO) is a large, multidomain, dimeric protein whose folding/unfolding pathway is characterized by a complex, multistep process. Here we used fluorescence correlation spectroscopy to demonstrate the formation of partially folded monomers by pH-induced full dissociation into subunits. Hence, the structural features of monomeric AAO could be studied by fluorescence and CD spectroscopy. We found that the monomers keep their secondary structure, whereas subtle conformational changes in the tertiary structure become apparent. AAO dissociation has also been studied when unfolding the protein by high hydrostatic pressure at different pH values. A strong protein concentration dependence was observed at pH 8, whereas the enzyme was either monomeric or dimeric at pH 10 and 6, respectively. The calculated volume change associated with the unfolding of monomeric AAO, ΔV ∼ -55 mL·mol(-1), is in the range observed for most proteins of the same size. These findings demonstrate that partially folded monomeric species might populate the energy landscape of AAO and that the overall AAO stability is crucially controlled by a few quaternary interactions at the subunits' interface.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08084.xDOI Listing
May 2011

Pitfalls and solutions in assaying anandamide transport in cells.

J Lipid Res 2010 Aug 6;51(8):2435-44. Epub 2010 May 6.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, 64100 Teramo, Italy.

Nonspecific binding of anandamide to plastic exhibits many features that could be mistaken as biological processes, thereby representing an important source of conflicting data on the uptake and release of this lipophilic substance. Herein, we propose an improved method to assay anandamide transport, by using glass slides (i.e., coverslips) as physical support to grow cells. Although the results obtained using plastic do not differ significantly from those obtained using glass, the new procedure has the advantage of being faster, simpler, and more accurate. In fact, the lack of aspecific adsorption of anandamide to the glass surface yields a lower background and a higher precision and accuracy in determining transport kinetics, especially for the export process. Remarkably, the kinetic parameters of anandamide uptake obtained with the old and the new procedures may be similar or different depending on the cell type, thus demonstrating the complexity of the interference of plastic on the transport process. In addition, the novel procedure is particularly suitable for visualization and measurement of anandamide transport in intact cells by using a biotinylated derivative in confocal fluorescence microscopy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1194/jlr.D004176DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903826PMC
August 2010

Methylation and acetylation of 15-hydroxyanandamide modulate its interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

Biochimie 2010 Apr 21;92(4):378-87. Epub 2010 Jan 21.

Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

The biological activity of endocannabinoids like anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is subjected in vivo to a "metabolic control", exerted mainly by catabolic enzymes. AEA is inactivated by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), that is inhibited competitively by hydroxyanandamides (HAEAs) generated from AEA by lipoxygenase activity. Among these derivatives, 15-HAEA has been shown to be an effective (K(i) approximately 0.6 muM) FAAH inhibitor, that blocks also type-1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) but not other components of the "endocannabinoid system (ECS)", like the AEA transporter (AMT) or CB2R. Here, we extended the study of the effect of 15-HAEA on the AEA synthetase (NAPE-PLD) and the AEA-binding vanilloid receptor (TRPV1), showing that 15-HAEA activates the former (up to approximately 140% of controls) and inhibits the latter protein (down to approximately 70%). We also show that 15-HAEA halves the synthesis of 2-AG and almost doubles the transport of this compound across the membrane. In addition, we synthesized methyl and acetyl derivatives of 15-HAEA (15-MeOAEA and 15-AcOAEA, respectively), in order to check their ability to modulate FAAH and the other ECS elements. In fact, methylation and acetylation are common biochemical reactions in the cellular environment. We show that 15-MeOAEA, unlike 15-AcOAEA, is still a powerful competitive inhibitor of FAAH (K(i) approximately 0.7 muM), and that both derivatives have negligible interactions with the other proteins of ECS. Therefore, 15-MeOAEA is a FAAH inhibitor more selective than 15-HAEA. Further molecular dynamics analysis gave clues to the molecular requirements for the interaction of 15-HAEA and 15-MeOAEA with FAAH.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biochi.2010.01.001DOI Listing
April 2010

Anandamide extends platelets survival through CB(1)-dependent Akt signaling.

Cell Mol Life Sci 2010 Feb 20;67(4):601-10. Epub 2009 Nov 20.

Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Platelets are stored at 22 degrees C, since incubation at 37 degrees C results in loss of viability. Nonetheless, in our body (37 degrees C), platelets survive for 8-10 days. This discrepancy has been explained in terms of deprivation of viability factors or accumulation of apoptotic factors during storage. We report that the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) may be one of the agents allowing platelet survival. In fact, at 37 degrees C, human platelets enhance the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins (caspases, Bax, Bak) and decrease the expression of Bcl-xL, thus changing the Bcl-xL/Bak ratio, a key platelet biological clock. AEA or its non-hydrolyzable analogue, methanandamide, extend platelet life span, without reversing the changes in Bcl-xL/Bak ratio induced by heat stress. Instead, AEA binding to type-1 cannabinoid receptor activates Akt, which regulates, through phosphorylation of Bad, the interactions among different Bcl-2 family members. These findings could have implications for platelet collection and, potentially, for their clinical use.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00018-009-0198-9DOI Listing
February 2010

Characterization of the endocannabinoid system in human neuronal cells and proteomic analysis of anandamide-induced apoptosis.

J Biol Chem 2009 Oct 18;284(43):29413-26. Epub 2009 Aug 18.

Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università degli Studi di Teramo, 64100 Teramo, Italy.

Anandamide (AEA) is an endogenous agonist of type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1R) that, along with metabolic enzymes of AEA and congeners, compose the "endocannabinoid system." Here we report the biochemical, morphological, and functional characterization of the endocannabinoid system in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells that are an experimental model for neuronal cell damage and death, as well as for major human neurodegenerative disorders. We also show that AEA dose-dependently induced apoptosis of SH-SY5Y cells. Through proteomic analysis, we further demonstrate that AEA-induced apoptosis was paralleled by an approximately 3 to approximately 5-fold up-regulation or down-regulation of five genes; IgG heavy chain-binding protein, stress-induced phosphoprotein-1, and triose-phosphate isomerase-1, which were up-regulated, are known to act as anti-apoptotic agents; actin-related protein 2/3 complex subunit 5 and peptidylprolyl isomerase-like protein 3 isoform PPIL3b were down-regulated, and the first is required for actin network formation whereas the second is still function-orphan. Interestingly, only the effect of AEA on BiP was reversed by the CB1R antagonist SR141716, in SH-SY5Y cells as well as in human neuroblastoma LAN-5 cells (that express a functional CB1R) but not in SK-NBE cells (which do not express CB1R). Silencing or overexpression of BiP increased or reduced, respectively, AEA-induced apoptosis of SH-SY5Y cells. In addition, the expression of BiP and of the BiP-related apoptotic markers p53 and PUMA was increased by AEA through a CB1R-dependent pathway that engages p38 and p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinases. Consistently, this effect of AEA was minimized by SR141716. In conclusion, we identified BiP as a key protein in neuronal apoptosis induced by AEA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M109.044412DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785574PMC
October 2009

Molecular identification of albumin and Hsp70 as cytosolic anandamide-binding proteins.

Chem Biol 2009 Jun 29;16(6):624-32. Epub 2009 May 29.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Teramo 64100, Italy.

The cellular uptake and the intracellular synthesis/degradation of anandamide are crucial steps for controlling its extracellular level and the duration of its activity. Although the biosynthesis and breakdown of anandamide are well understood, little is known about the mechanisms underlying its intracellular transport. Here, we investigated the presence of a potential carrier-mediated trafficking of anandamide within the cytosol, using a biotinylated analog as a tool to catch by affinity chromatography anandamide-interacting proteins. The identity of two of these anandamide-binding proteins, Hsp70 and serum albumin, was determined by mass spectrometry, confirmed by western blotting and confocal microscopy, and further validated through an anandamide-binding assay. These findings suggest that the trafficking of anandamide from the plasma membrane to the internal compartments of a cell occur via a nonvesicular mechanism mediated by cytosolic carriers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2009.05.004DOI Listing
June 2009

Lipid rafts regulate 2-arachidonoylglycerol metabolism and physiological activity in the striatum.

J Neurochem 2009 Apr 2;109(2):371-81. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università degli Studi di Teramo, Italy.

Several G protein-associated receptors and synaptic proteins function within lipid rafts, which are subdomains of the plasma membranes that contain high concentrations of cholesterol. In this study we addressed the possible role of lipid rafts in the control of endocannabinoid system in striatal slices. Disruption of lipid rafts following cholesterol depletion with methyl-beta-cyclodestrin (MCD) failed to affect synthesis and degradation of anandamide, while it caused a marked increase in the synthesis and concentration of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), as well as in the binding activity of cannabinoid CB1 receptors. Surprisingly, endogenous 2-AG-mediated control of GABA transmission was not potentiated by MCD treatment and, in contrast, neither basal nor 3,5-Dihydroxyphenylglycine-stimulated 2-AG altered GABA synapses in cholesterol-depleted slices. Synaptic response to the cannabinoid CB1 receptor agonist HU210 was however intact in MCD-treated slices, indicating that reduced sensitivity of cannabinoid CB1 receptors does not explain why endogenous 2-AG is ineffective in inhibiting striatal GABA transmission after cholesterol depletion. Confocal microscopy analysis suggested that disruption of raft integrity by MCD might uncouple metabotropic glutamate 5-CB1 receptor interaction by altering the correct localization of both receptors in striatal neuron elements. In conclusion, our data indicate that disruption of raft integrity causes a complex alteration of the endocannabinoid signalling in the striatum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.05948.xDOI Listing
April 2009

Expression of the endocannabinoid system in the bi-potential HEL cell line: commitment to the megakaryoblastic lineage by 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

J Mol Med (Berl) 2009 Jan 27;87(1):65-74. Epub 2008 Sep 27.

Department of Experimental Medicine & Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

The role of the endocannabinoid system in haematopoietic cells is not completely understood. We investigated whether human erythroleukemia (HEL) cells were able to bind, metabolise and transport the main endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). We also investigated whether AEA or 2-AG could modulate HEL differentiation. Although able to internalise both endocannabinoids, HEL cells had the machinery to metabolise 2-AG only, since they were devoid of the enzymes needed to synthesise and degrade AEA. Nonetheless, the intracellular transport of exogenous AEA might be required to activate the vanilloid receptors, with yet unknown implications for vascular biology. On the contrary, 2-AG appeared to play a role in lineage determination. Indeed, 2-AG itself drove HEL cells towards megakaryocytic differentiation, as it enhanced expression of beta3 integrin subunit, a megakaryocyte/platelet surface antigen, and glycoprotein VI, a late marker of megakaryocytes; in parallel, it reduced the amount of messenger RNA encoding for glycophorin A, a marker of erythroid phenotype. All these effects were mediated by activation of CB(2) cannabinoid receptors that triggered an extracellular signal-regulated kinase-dependent signalling cascade. In addition, classical inducers of megakaryocyte differentiation reduced 2-AG synthesis (although they did not affect the binding efficiency of CB(2) receptors), suggesting that levels of this endocannabinoid may be critical for committing HEL cells towards the megakaryocytic lineage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00109-008-0406-3DOI Listing
January 2009

Characterization of biotin-anandamide, a novel tool for the visualization of anandamide accumulation.

J Lipid Res 2008 Jun 3;49(6):1216-23. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

European Center for Brain Research/Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico S. Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy.

Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide; AEA) acts as an endogenous agonist of both cannabinoid and vanilloid receptors. During the last two decades, its metabolic pathways and biological activity have been investigated extensively and relatively well characterized. In contrast, at present, the effective nature and mechanism of AEA transport remain controversial and still unsolved issues. Here, we report the characterization of a biotinylated analog of AEA (b-AEA) that has the same lipophilicity of the parent compound. In addition, by means of biochemical assays and fluorescence microscopy, we show that b-AEA is accumulated inside the cells in a way superimposable on that of AEA. Conversely, b-AEA does not interact or interfere with the other components of the endocannabinoid system, such as type-1 and type-2 cannabinoid receptors, vanilloid receptor, AEA synthetase (N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine-hydrolyzing phospholipase D), or AEA hydrolase (fatty acid amide hydrolase). Together, our data suggest that b-AEA could be a very useful probe for visualizing the accumulation and intracellular distribution of this endocannabinoid.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1194/jlr.M700486-JLR200DOI Listing
June 2008

Anandamide inhibits metabolism and physiological actions of 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the striatum.

Nat Neurosci 2008 Feb 20;11(2):152-9. Epub 2008 Jan 20.

Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università degli Studi di Teramo, Piazza Aldo Moro 45, 64100 Teramo, Italy.

Of the endocannabinoids (eCBs), anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) have received the most study. A functional interaction between these molecules has never been described. Using mouse brain slices, we found that stimulation of metabotropic glutamate 5 receptors by 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG) depressed inhibitory transmission in the striatum through selective involvement of 2-AG metabolism and stimulation of presynaptic CB1 receptors. Elevation of AEA concentrations by pharmacological or genetic inhibition of AEA degradation reduced the levels, metabolism and physiological effects of 2-AG. Exogenous AEA and the stable AEA analog methanandamide inhibited basal and DHPG-stimulated 2-AG production, confirming that AEA is responsible for the downregulation of the other eCB. AEA is an endovanilloid substance, and the stimulation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channels mimicked the effects of endogenous AEA on 2-AG metabolism through a previously unknown glutathione-dependent pathway. Consistently, the interaction between AEA and 2-AG was lost after pharmacological and genetic inactivation of TRPV1 channels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn2042DOI Listing
February 2008

The (endo)cannabinoid system in multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Int Rev Neurobiol 2007 ;82:171-86

Neurological Clinics, Department of Neurosciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Alterations of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) have been recently implicated in a number of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions so that the pharmacological modulation of cannabinoid (CB) receptors and/or of the enzymes controlling synthesis, transport, and degradation of these substances has emerged as a valuable option to treat neurological diseases. Here, we describe the current knowledge concerning the rearrangement of ECS in a primarily inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis (MS), and in a primarily degenerative condition such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Furthermore, the data supporting a therapeutic role of agents modulating CB receptors or endocannabinoid tone in these disorders will also be reviewed. Complex changes of ECS take place in both diseases, influencing crucial aspects of their pathophysiology and clinical manifestations. Neuroinflammation, microglial activation, oxidative stress, and excitotoxicity are variably combined in MS and in ALS and can be modulated by endocannabinoids or by drugs targeting the ECS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0074-7742(07)82009-5DOI Listing
September 2007

Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in retinal damage after high intraocular pressure-induced ischemia in rats.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2007 Jul;48(7):2997-3004

Physiopathological Optics, Department of Biopathology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Purpose: To evaluate whether high intraocular pressure (IOP)-induced ischemia is associated with modifications in the retinal endocannabinoid metabolism and to ascertain whether drugs that interfere with the endocannabinoid system may prevent retinal damage due to ischemic insult.

Methods: Anandamide (AEA) synthesis, transport, hydrolysis, and AEA endogenous levels were assessed by means of high-performance liquid chromatography in the retinas of rats undergoing 45 minutes of ischemia followed by 12 hours of reperfusion. Under these experimental conditions, binding to cannabinoid (CB1R) and vanilloid (TRPV1) receptor was assessed with rapid-filtration assays. AEA-hydrolase (FAAH, fatty acid amide hydrolase), CB1R and TRPV1 protein content was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Finally, to characterize the neuroprotective profile of drugs that interfere with the endocannabinoid system, cell counting in the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) layer and real-time polymerase chain reactions for Thy-1 mRNA expression were used.

Results: In rat retina, ischemic insult followed by reperfusion resulted in enhanced FAAH activity and protein expression paralleled by a significant decrease in the endogenous AEA tone, whereas the AEA-membrane transporter or the AEA-synthase NAPE-PLD (N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-hydrolyzing-phospholipase-d) were not affected. Retinal ischemia-reperfusion decreased the expression of cannabinoid (CB1) and vanilloid (TRPV1) receptors. Systemic administration of a specific FAAH inhibitor (e.g., URB597) reduced enzyme activity and minimized the retinal damage observed in ischemic-reperfused samples. Similarly, intravitreal injection of the AEA stable analogue, R(+)-methanandamide, reduced cell loss in the RGC layer, and this was prevented by systemic administration of a CB1 or TRPV1 selective antagonist (e.g., SR141716 and capsazepine, respectively).

Conclusions: The original observation that retinal ischemia-reperfusion reduces endogenous AEA via enhanced expression of FAAH supports the deduction that this is implicated in retinal cell loss caused by high IOP in the RGC layer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.06-1355DOI Listing
July 2007

Severe deficiency of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) activity segregates with the Huntington's disease mutation in peripheral lymphocytes.

Neurobiol Dis 2007 Jul 6;27(1):108-16. Epub 2007 May 6.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Piazza A Moro 45, Teramo, Italy.

The search for peripheral markers of neurodegenerative diseases aims at identifying molecules that could help in monitoring the effects of future therapeutics in easily accessible cells. Here we focused on the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in Huntington's disease (HD). We assayed peripheral lymphocytes from HD patients and healthy controls, and found that the activity of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the enzyme that degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA), was dramatically decreased (down to less than 10%) in HD compared to healthy subjects. Concomitantly, the endogenous levels of AEA were approximately 6-fold higher in HD versus healthy lymphocytes, while the other elements of the endocannabinoid system were not affected by HD. Low FAAH activity in HD lymphocytes was not due to down-regulation of protein expression, but rather to blockage of enzyme activity by a cytosolic and irreversible inhibitor. Finally, pre-HD patients showed defective FAAH activity, as did the brain of HD patients compared with healthy controls. Taken together, our data indicate that FAAH activity in lymphocytes mirrors some of the metabolic changes which take place in the brain, it is a measurable non-genetic peripheral marker that segregates with the HD mutation, and it might serve as a target to test chemicals active on the widespread toxic effects of the mutant protein.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2007.04.012DOI Listing
July 2007

The endocannabinoid system in targeting inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases.

Trends Pharmacol Sci 2007 Apr 12;28(4):180-7. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Neurological Clinics, Department of Neurosciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome 00133, Italy.

The classical divide between degenerative and inflammatory disorders of the CNS is vanishing as accumulating evidence shows that inflammatory processes are important in the pathophysiology of primarily degenerative disorders, and neurodegeneration complicates primarily inflammatory diseases of the brain and spinal cord. Here, we review the contribution of degenerative and inflammatory processes to CNS disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and HIV-associated dementia. An early combination of neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory approaches to these disorders seems particularly desirable because isolated treatment of one pathological process might worsen another. We also discuss the apparently unique opportunity to modify neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation simultaneously by pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system in the CNS and in peripheral immune cells. Current knowledge of this system and its involvement in the above CNS disorders are also reviewed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tips.2007.02.004DOI Listing
April 2007

The endocannabinoid system in neurodegeneration.

Ital J Biochem 2006 Sep-Dec;55(3-4):283-9

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Teramo, Teramo, Italy.

Endocannabinoids are bioactive lipids, that comprise amides, esters and ethers of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine; AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the best studied endocannabinoids, and act as agonists of cannabinoid receptors. Thus, AEA and 2-AG mimic several pharmacological effects of the exogenous cannabinoid delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive principle of hashish and marijuana. It is known that the activity of endocannabinoids at their receptors is limited by cellular uptake through specific membrane transporters, followed by intracellular degradation by a fatty acid amide hydrolase (for AEA and partly 2-AG) or by a monoacylglycerol lipase (for 2-AG). Together with AEA, 2-AG and congeners, the proteins that bind, transport and metabolize these lipids form the "endocannabinoid system". This new system will be briefly presented in this review, in order to put in a better perspective the role of the endocannabinoid pathway in neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, the potential exploitation of antagonists of endocannabinoid receptors, or of inhibitors of endocannabinoid metabolism, as next-generation therapeutics will be discussed.
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February 2007

Closing the gate to the active site: effect of the inhibitor methoxyarachidonyl fluorophosphonate on the conformation and membrane binding of fatty acid amide hydrolase.

J Biol Chem 2007 Feb 7;282(6):3829-36. Epub 2006 Dec 7.

INFM and Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is a dimeric, membranebound enzyme that degrades neuromodulatory fatty acid amides and esters and is expressed in mammalian brain and peripheral tissues. The cleavage of approximately 30 amino acids from each subunit creates an FAAH variant that is soluble and homogeneous in detergent-containing buffers, opening the avenue to the in vitro mechanistic and structural studies. Here we have studied the stability of FAAH as a function of guanidinium hydrochloride concentration and of hydrostatic pressure. The unfolding transition was observed to be complex and required a fitting procedure based on a three-state process with a monomeric intermediate. The first transition was characterized by dimer dissociation, with a free energy change of approximately 11 kcal/mol that accounted for approximately 80% of the total stabilization energy. This process was also paralleled by a large change in the solvent-accessible surface area, because of the hydration occurring both at the dimeric interface and within the monomers. As a consequence, the isolated subunits were found to be much less stable (DeltaG approximately 3 kcal/mol). The addition of methoxyarachidonyl fluorophosphonate, an irreversible inhibitor of FAAH activity, enhanced the stability of the dimer by approximately 2 kcal/mol, toward denaturant- and pressure-induced unfolding. FAAH inhibition by methoxyarachidonyl fluorophosphonate also reduced the ability of the protein to bind to the membranes. These findings suggest that local conformational changes at the level of the active site might induce a tighter interaction between the subunits of FAAH, affecting the enzymatic activity and the interaction with membranes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M605653200DOI Listing
February 2007

Physico-chemical properties of molten dimer ascorbate oxidase.

FEBS J 2006 Nov 24;273(22):5194-204. Epub 2006 Oct 24.

INFM, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy.

The possible presence of dimeric unfolding intermediates might offer a clue to understanding the relationship between tertiary and quaternary structure formation in dimers. Ascorbate oxidase is a large dimeric enzyme that displays such an intermediate along its unfolding pathway. In this study the combined effect of high pressure and denaturing agents gave new insight on this intermediate and on the mechanism of its formation. The transition from native dimer to the dimeric intermediate is characterized by the release of copper ions forming the tri-nuclear copper center located at the interface between domain 2 and 3 of each subunit. This transition, which is pH-dependent, is accompanied by a decrease in volume, probably associated to electrostriction due to the loosening of intra-subunit electrostatic interactions. The dimeric species is present even at 3 x 10(8) Pa, providing evidence that mechanically or chemically induced unfolding lead to a similar intermediate state. Instead, dissociation occurs with an extremely large and negative volume change (DeltaV approximately -200 mL.mol(-1)) by pressurization in the presence of moderate amounts of denaturant. This volume change can be ascribed to the elimination of voids at the subunit interface. Furthermore, the combination of guanidine and high pressure uncovers the presence of a marginally stable (DeltaG approximately 2 kcal.mol(-1)) monomeric species (which was not observed in previous equilibrium unfolding measurements) that might be populated in the early folding steps of ascorbate oxidase. These findings provide new aspects of the protein folding pathway, further supporting the important role of quaternary interactions in the folding strategy of large dimeric enzymes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2006.05515.xDOI Listing
November 2006

Effect of lipid rafts on Cb2 receptor signaling and 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol metabolism in human immune cells.

J Immunol 2006 Oct;177(8):4971-80

Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Recently, we have shown that treatment of rat C6 glioma cells with the raft disruptor methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MCD) doubles the binding of anandamide (AEA) to type-1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1R), followed by CB1R-dependent signaling via adenylate cyclase and p42/p44 MAPK activity. In the present study, we investigated whether type-2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2R), widely expressed in immune cells, also are modulated by MCD. We show that treatment of human DAUDI leukemia cells with MCD does not affect AEA binding to CB2R, and that receptor activation triggers similar [35S]guanosine-5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate) binding in MCD-treated and control cells, similar adenylate cyclase and MAPK activity, and similar MAPK-dependent protection against apoptosis. The other AEA-binding receptor transient receptor potential channel vanilloid receptor subunit 1, the AEA synthetase N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-phospholipase D, and the AEA hydrolase fatty acid amide hydrolase were not affected by MCD, whereas the AEA membrane transporter was inhibited (approximately 55%) compared with controls. Furthermore, neither diacylglycerol lipase nor monoacylglycerol lipase, which respectively synthesize and degrade 2-arachidonoylglycerol, were affected by MCD in DAUDI or C6 cells, whereas the transport of 2-arachidonoylglycerol was reduced to approximately 50%. Instead, membrane cholesterol enrichment almost doubled the uptake of AEA and 2-arachidonoylglycerol in both cell types. Finally, transfection experiments with human U937 immune cells, and the use of primary cells expressing CB1R or CB2R, ruled out that the cellular environment could account per se for the different modulation of CB receptor subtypes by MCD. In conclusion, the present data demonstrate that lipid rafts control CB1R, but not CB2R, and endocannabinoid transport in immune and neuronal cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.177.8.4971DOI Listing
October 2006

Properties of copper-free pig kidney amine oxidase: role of topa quinone.

FEBS Lett 2006 Aug 7;580(18):4317-24. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Department of Applied Sciences in Biosystems, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Copper removal from pig kidney amine oxidase containing Cu/topaquinone (TPQ) has been obtained using CN(-) in the presence of the poor substrate p-(dimethylamino)benzylamine. Upon removal of copper, the enzyme loses its activity while the TPQ cofactor remains in its oxidized form. The addition of copper to the apo-form fully restores the active enzyme. The CN(-) treatment in the presence of sodium dithionite or good substrates (cadaverine or benzylamine) also removes copper but the TPQ cofactor is irreversibly reduced and the addition of copper does not regenerate the active enzyme. Ni(II) and Zn(II) do not bind the apo-protein in contrast to Co(II) which is incorporated to the same extent as Cu(II). However, Co-reconstituted enzyme only shows a very low activity. These results demonstrate that copper is essential for the catalytic mechanism because it maintains the correct active site geometry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.febslet.2006.06.089DOI Listing
August 2006