The insertion and transport of anandamide in synthetic lipid membranes are both cholesterol-dependent.

Abstract: Anandamide is a lipid neurotransmitter which belongs to a class of molecules termed the endocannabinoids involved in multiple physiological functions. Anandamide is readily taken up into cells, but there is considerable controversy as to the nature of this transport process (passive diffusion through the lipid bilayer vs. involvement of putative proteic transporters). This issue is of major importance since anandamide transport through the plasma membrane is crucial for its biological activity and intracellular degradation. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the involvement of cholesterol in membrane uptake and transport of anandamide

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that cholesterol stimulates both the insertion of anandamide into synthetic lipid monolayers and bilayers, and its transport across bilayer membranes. In this respect, we suggest that besides putative anandamide protein-transporters, cholesterol could be an important component of the anandamide transport machinery. Finally, this study provides a mechanistic explanation for the key regulatory activity played by membrane cholesterol in the responsiveness of cells to anandamide.

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