Regional distribution and effects of postmortal delay on endocannabinoid content of the human brain

M. Palkovits, J. Harvey-White, J. Liu, Z. S. Kovacs, M. Bobest, G. Lovas, A. G. Bagó, G. Kunos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)


Tissue levels of anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) have been determined in 16 regions and nuclei from human brains, using liquid chromatography/in-line mass spectrometry. Measurements in brain samples stored at -80 °C for 2 months to 13 years indicated that endocannabinoids were stable under such conditions. In contrast, the postmortal delay had a strong effect on brain endocannabinoid levels, as documented in brain samples microdissected and frozen 1-6 h postmortem, and in neurosurgical samples 0, 5, 30, 60, 180 and 360 min after their removal from the brain. The tissue levels of AEA increased continuously and in a region-dependent manner from 1 h after death, increasing about sevenfold by 6 h postmortem. In contrast, concentrations of 2-AG, which were 10-100 times higher in human brain regions than those of AEA, rapidly declined: within the first hour, 2-AG levels dropped to 25-35% of the initial ('0 min') value, thereafter they remained relatively stable. As analyzed in samples removed 1-1.5 h postmortem, AEA levels ranged from a high of 96.3 fmol/mg tissue in the nucleus accumbens to a low of 25.0 fmol/mg in the cerebellum. 2-AG levels varied eightfold, from 8.6 pmol/mg in the lateral hypothalamus to 1.1 pmol/mg in the nucleus accumbens. Relative levels of AEA and 2-AG varied from region to region, with the 2-AG:AEA ratio being high in the sensory spinal trigeminal nucleus (140:1), the spinal dorsal horn (136:1) and the lateral hypothalamus (98:1) and low in the nucleus accumbens (16:1) and the striatum (31:1). The results highlight the pitfall of analyzing endocannabinoid content in brain samples of variable postmortal delay, and document differential distribution of the two main endocannabinoids in the human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1032-1039
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 9 2008


  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol
  • anandamide
  • brain microdissection
  • neurosurgical dissections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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