Circulating Endocannabinoids and N-Acyl Ethanolamines Are Differentially

Regulated in Major Depression and Following Exposure to Social Stress

Central endocannabinoid signaling is known to be responsive to stressful stimuli; however, there is no research to date characterizing the effects of stress on peripheral endocannabinoid content. The current study examined serum content of the endocannabinoid ligands N-arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide; AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and the non-cannabinoid N-acyl ethanolamine (NAE) molecules palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA) under basal conditions, immediately following the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and 30 min thereafter, in fifteen medication-free women diagnosed with major depression, and fifteen healthy matched controls. Basal serum concentrations of AEA and 2-AG, but not PEA or OEA, were significantly reduced in women with major depression relative to matched controls, indicating a deficit in peripheral endocannabinoid activity. Immediately following the TSST, serum 2-AG concentrations were increased compared to baseline; serum AEA concentration was unchanged at this time point. Serum concentrations of PEA and OEA were significantly lower than baseline 30 min following the cessation of the TSST. The magnitude of these responses did not differ between depressed and control subjects. These are the first data to demonstrate that the peripheral endocannabinoid/NAE system is responsive to exposure to stress.


Serum contents of endocannabinoids are correlated with blood pressure in

depressed women


Background: Depression is known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Since recent preclinical evidence suggests that endogenous agonists of cannabinoid receptors (endocannabinoids) are involved in both cardiovascular function and depression, we asked whether endocannabinoids correlated with either in humans.

Results: Resting blood pressure and serum content of endocannabinoids in ambulatory, medication-free, female volunteers with depression (n = 28) and their age- and ethnicity-matched controls (n = 27) were measured. In females with depression, both diastolic and mean arterial blood pressures were positively correlated with serum contents of the endocannabinoids, N-arachidonylethanolamine (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. There was no correlation between blood pressure and endocannabinoids in control subjects. Furthermore, depressed women had significantly higher systolic blood pressure than control subjects. A larger body mass index was also found in depressed women, however, it was not significantly correlated with serum endocannabinoid contents.

Conclusions: This preliminary study raises the possibility that endocannabinoids play a role in blood pressure regulation in depressives with higher blood pressure, and suggests an interrelationship among endocannabinoids, depression and cardiovascular risk factors in women.