In human embryonic kidney cells over-expressing the human vanilloid receptor type 1 (VR1), palmitoylethanolamide (PEA, 0.5-10 microM) enhanced the effect of arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA, 50 nM) on the VR1-mediated increase of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. PEA (5 microM) decreased the AEA half-maximal concentration for this effect from 0.44 to 0.22 microM. The PEA effect was not due to inhibition of AEA hydrolysis or adhesion to non-specific sites, since bovine serum albumin (0.01-0.25%) potently inhibited AEA activity, and PEA also enhanced the effect of low concentrations of the VR1 agonists resiniferatoxin and capsaicin. PEA (5 microM) enhanced the affinity of AEA for VR1 receptors as assessed in specific binding assays. These data suggest that PEA might be an endogenous enhancer of VR1-mediated AEA actions.