Context: Skeletal muscle endocannabinoids and sphingolipids (particularly sphingomyelins) are inversely associated with sleeping energy expenditure (SLEEP) in humans. The endocannabinoid system may increase sphingolipid synthesis via cannabinoid receptor-1.
Objective: To investigate in human skeletal muscle whether endocannabinoids are responsible for the effect of sphingomyelins on SLEEP.
Design: Muscle endocannabinoid [anandamide (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)], endocannabinoid congeners [oleoylethanolamide (OEA), palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)], and sphingomyelin content were measured with liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. SLEEP was assessed in a whole-room indirect calorimeter. Mediation analyses tested whether the inverse associations between sphingomyelins and SLEEP depended on endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-related OEA and PEA.
Setting: Inpatient study.
Participants: Fifty-three Native Americans who are overweight.
Main outcome measure: SLEEP.
Results: AEA (r = 0.45, P = 0.001), 2-AG (r = 0.47, P = 0.0004), OEA (r = 0.27, P = 0.05), and PEA (r = 0.53, P < 0.0001) concentrations were associated with the total sphingomyelin content. AEA, OEA, and PEA correlated with specific sphingomyelins (SM18:1/23:0, SM18:1/23:1, and SM18:1/26:1) previously reported to be determinants of SLEEP in Native Americans (all r > 0.31, all P < 0.03). Up to half of the negative effect of these specific sphingomyelins on SLEEP was accounted for by AEA (all P < 0.04), rendering the direct effect by sphingomyelins per se on SLEEP negligible (P > 0.05).
Conclusions: In skeletal muscle, AEA is responsible for the sphingomyelin effect on SLEEP, indicating that endocannabinoids and sphingomyelins may jointly reduce human whole-body energy metabolism.