Clinical studies suggest that diets rich in ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) provide beneficial anti-inflammatory effects, in part through their conversion to bioactive metabolites.

Here we report on the endogenous production of a previously unknown class of ω-3 PUFA-derived lipid metabolites that originate from the crosstalk between endocannabinoid and cytochrome P450 (CYP) epoxygenase metabolic pathways. The ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides are derived from docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to form epoxyeicosatetraenoic acid-ethanolamide (EEQ-EA) and epoxydocosapentaenoic acid-ethanolamide (EDP-EA), respectively. Both EEQ-EAs and EDP-EAs are endogenously present in rat brain and peripheral organs as determined via targeted lipidomics methods. These metabolites were directly produced by direct epoxygenation of the ω-3 endocannabinoids, docosahexanoyl ethanolamide (DHEA) and eicosapentaenoyl ethanolamide (EPEA) by activated BV-2 microglial cells, and by human CYP2J2. Neuroinflammation studies revealed that the terminal epoxides 17,18-EEQ-EA and 19,20-EDP-EA dose-dependently abated proinflammatory IL-6 cytokines while increasing anti-inflammatory IL-10 cytokines, in part through cannabinoid receptor-2 activation. Furthermore the ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides 17,18-EEQ-EA and 19,20-EDP-EA exerted antiangiogenic effects in human microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC) and vasodilatory actions on bovine coronary arteries and reciprocally regulated platelet aggregation in washed human platelets. Taken together, the ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides' physiological effects are mediated through both endocannabinoid and epoxyeicosanoid signaling pathways.

In summary, the ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides are found at concentrations comparable to those of other endocannabinoids and are expected to play critical roles during inflammation in vivo; thus their identification may aid in the development of therapeutics for neuroinflammatory and cerebrovascular diseases.