Hermanson DJ, Hartley ND, Gamble-George J, Brown N, Shonesy BC, Kingsley PJ, Colbran RJ, Reese J, Marnett LJ, Patel S. Substrate-selective COX-2 inhibition decreases anxiety via endocannabinoid activation. Nature neuroscience. 2013 Sep;16(16). 1291-8. PMID: 23912944 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3788575 NIHMSID: NIHMS499735.
Augmentation of endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) signaling represents an emerging approach to the treatment of affective disorders. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) oxygenates arachidonic acid to form prostaglandins, but also inactivates eCBs in vitro. However, the viability of COX-2 as a therapeutic target for in vivo eCB augmentation has not been explored. Using medicinal chemistry and in vivo analytical and behavioral pharmacological approaches, we found that COX-2 is important for the regulation of eCB levels in vivo. We used a pharmacological strategy involving substrate-selective inhibition of COX-2 to augment eCB signaling without affecting related non-eCB lipids or prostaglandin synthesis. Behaviorally, substrate-selective inhibition of COX-2 reduced anxiety-like behaviors in mice via increased eCB signaling. Our data suggest a key role for COX-2 in the regulation of eCB signaling and indicate that substrate-selective pharmacology represents a viable approach for eCB augmentation with broad therapeutic potential.