Peripheral inflammatory conditions, including those localized to the gastrointestinal tract, are highly comorbid with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. These behavioral symptoms are poorly managed by conventional treatments for inflammatory diseases and contribute to quality of life impairments. Peripheral inflammation is associated with sustained elevations in circulating glucocorticoid hormones, which can modulate central processes, including those involved in the regulation of emotional behavior. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is exquisitely sensitive to these hormonal changes and is a significant regulator of emotional behavior. The impact of peripheral inflammation on central eCB function, and whether this is related to the development of these behavioral comorbidities remains to be determined. To examine this, we employed the trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid-induced model of colonic inflammation (colitis) in adult, male, Sprague Dawley rats to produce sustained peripheral inflammation. Colitis produced increases in behavioral measures of anxiety and elevations in circulating corticosterone. These alterations were accompanied by elevated hydrolytic activity of the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which hydrolyzes the eCB anandamide (AEA), throughout multiple corticolimbic brain regions. This elevation of FAAH activity was associated with broad reductions in the content of AEA, whose decline was driven by central corticotropin releasing factor type 1 receptor signaling. Colitis-induced anxiety was reversed following acute central inhibition of FAAH, suggesting that the reductions in AEA produced by colitis contributed to the generation of anxiety. These data provide a novel perspective for the pharmacological management of psychiatric comorbidities of chronic inflammatory conditions through modulation of eCB signaling.
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