Occurrence, metabolism, and prospective functions of N-acylethanolamines in plants

Prog Lipid Res. 2004 Jul;43(4):302-27. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2004.03.002.


N-Acylethanolamines (NAEs) are fatty acid amides that are derived from an N-acylated phoshatidylethanolamine presursor, a minor membrane lipid constituent of plant and animal cells. Historically, the formation of N-acylethanolamines was associated with cellular stress and tissue damage in mammals, but more recently has been shown to be part of the endocannabinoid signaling system that regulates a variety of normal physiological functions, including neurotransmission, immune responses, vasodilation, embryo development and implantation, feeding behavior, cell proliferation, etc. The widespread regulation of vertebrate physiology by this class of lipid mediators and the conservation of the mechanisms for NAE formation, perception and degradation in higher plants raises the possibility that the metabolism of NAEs represents an evolutionarily conserved lipid signaling pathway that regulates an array of physiological processes in multicellular eukaryotes. Here the recent information on NAEs in plants is reviewed in the context of the occurrence, metabolism and functions of this bioactive class of lipid mediators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethanolamines / analysis
  • Ethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ethanolamines
  • N-acylethanolamines
  • Phospholipase D