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      A Guide to Targeting the Endocannabinoid System in Drug Design

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          Abstract

          The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the most crucial systems in the human organism, exhibiting multi-purpose regulatory character. It is engaged in a vast array of physiological processes, including nociception, mood regulation, cognitive functions, neurogenesis and neuroprotection, appetite, lipid metabolism, as well as cell growth and proliferation. Thus, ECS proteins, including cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands’ synthesizing and degrading enzymes, are promising therapeutic targets. Their modulation has been employed in or extensively studied as a treatment of multiple diseases. However, due to a complex nature of ECS and its crosstalk with other biological systems, the development of novel drugs turned out to be a challenging task. In this review, we summarize potential therapeutic applications for ECS-targeting drugs, especially focusing on promising synthetic compounds and preclinical studies. We put emphasis on modulation of specific proteins of ECS in different pathophysiological areas. In addition, we stress possible difficulties and risks and highlight proposed solutions. By presenting this review, we point out information pivotal in the spotlight of ECS-targeting drug design, as well as provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on ECS-related pharmacodynamics and show possible directions for needed research.

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          Most cited references 324

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          Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids.

          The major active ingredient of marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC), has been used as a psychoactive agent for thousands of years. Marijuana, and delta 9-THC, also exert a wide range of other effects including analgesia, anti-inflammation, immunosuppression, anticonvulsion, alleviation of intraocular pressure in glaucoma, and attenuation of vomiting. The clinical application of cannabinoids has, however, been limited by their psychoactive effects, and this has led to interest in the biochemical bases of their action. Progress stemmed initially from the synthesis of potent derivatives of delta 9-THC, and more recently from the cloning of a gene encoding a G-protein-coupled receptor for cannabinoids. This receptor is expressed in the brain but not in the periphery, except for a low level in testes. It has been proposed that the nonpsychoactive effects of cannabinoids are either mediated centrally or through direct interaction with other, non-receptor proteins. Here we report the cloning of a receptor for cannabinoids that is not expressed in the brain but rather in macrophages in the marginal zone of spleen.
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            Structure of a cannabinoid receptor and functional expression of the cloned cDNA.

            Marijuana and many of its constituent cannabinoids influence the central nervous system (CNS) in a complex and dose-dependent manner. Although CNS depression and analgesia are well documented effects of the cannabinoids, the mechanisms responsible for these and other cannabinoid-induced effects are not so far known. The hydrophobic nature of these substances has suggested that cannabinoids resemble anaesthetic agents in their action, that is, they nonspecifically disrupt cellular membranes. Recent evidence, however, has supported a mechanism involving a G protein-coupled receptor found in brain and neural cell lines, and which inhibits adenylate cyclase activity in a dose-dependent, stereoselective and pertussis toxin-sensitive manner. Also, the receptor is more responsive to psychoactive cannabinoids than to non-psychoactive cannabinoids. Here we report the cloning and expression of a complementary DNA that encodes a G protein-coupled receptor with all of these properties. Its messenger RNA is found in cell lines and regions of the brain that have cannabinoid receptors. These findings suggest that this protein is involved in cannabinoid-induced CNS effects (including alterations in mood and cognition) experienced by users of marijuana.
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              The orphan receptor GPR55 is a novel cannabinoid receptor.

              The endocannabinoid system functions through two well characterized receptor systems, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Work by a number of groups in recent years has provided evidence that the system is more complicated and additional receptor types should exist to explain ligand activity in a number of physiological processes. Cells transfected with the human cDNA for GPR55 were tested for their ability to bind and to mediate GTPgammaS binding by cannabinoid ligands. Using an antibody and peptide blocking approach, the nature of the G-protein coupling was determined and further demonstrated by measuring activity of downstream signalling pathways. We demonstrate that GPR55 binds to and is activated by the cannabinoid ligand CP55940. In addition endocannabinoids including anandamide and virodhamine activate GTPgammaS binding via GPR55 with nM potencies. Ligands such as cannabidiol and abnormal cannabidiol which exhibit no CB1 or CB2 activity and are believed to function at a novel cannabinoid receptor, also showed activity at GPR55. GPR55 couples to Galpha13 and can mediate activation of rhoA, cdc42 and rac1. These data suggest that GPR55 is a novel cannabinoid receptor, and its ligand profile with respect to CB1 and CB2 described here will permit delineation of its physiological function(s).
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                ijms
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                MDPI
                1422-0067
                16 April 2020
                April 2020
                : 21
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Drug Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Medical University of Warsaw, Banacha 1, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland; monika.grudzien@ 123456wum.edu.pl (M.G.); tomasz.pawinski@ 123456wum.edu.pl (T.P.)
                [2 ]Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Biological Systems Modelling, Centre of New Technologies, University of Warsaw, Banacha 2c, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland; k.znajdek@ 123456cent.uw.edu.pl
                [3 ]Faculty of Pharmacy, Medical University of Warsaw, Banacha 1, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland
                [4 ]Faculty of Chemistry, University of Warsaw, Pasteura 1, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland
                [5 ]Materials and Process Simulation Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
                Author notes
                Article
                ijms-21-02778
                10.3390/ijms21082778
                7216112
                32316328
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                Categories
                Review

                Molecular biology

                endocannabinoid system, ecs, cb1, cb2, faah, magl, molecular target

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