Oleamide (cis-9,10-octadecenoamide), a fatty acid primary amide discovered in the cerebrospinal fluid of sleep-deprived cats, has a variety of actions that give it potential as a signaling molecule, although these actions have not been extensively investigated in the cardiovascular system. The synthetic pathway probably involves synthesis of oleoylglycine and then conversion to oleamide by peptidylglycine alpha-amidating monooxygenase (PAM); breakdown of oleamide is by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Oleamide interacts with voltage-gated Na(+) channels and allosterically with GABA(A) and 5-HT(7) receptors as well as having cannabinoid-like actions. The latter have been suggested to be due to potentiation of the effects of endocannabinoids such as anandamide by inhibiting FAAH-mediated hydrolysis. This might underlie an "entourage effect" whereby co-released endogenous nonagonist congeners of endocannabinoids protect the active molecule from hydrolysis by FAAH. However, oleamide has direct agonist actions at CB(1) cannabinoid receptors and also activates the TRPV1 vanilloid receptor. Other actions include inhibition of gap-junctional communication, and this might give oleamide a role in myocardial development. Many of these actions are absent from the trans isomer of 9,10-octadecenoamide. One of the most potent actions of oleamide is vasodilation. In rat small mesenteric artery the response does not involve CB(1) cannabinoid receptors but another pertussis toxin-sensitive, G protein-coupled receptor, as yet unidentified. This receptor is sensitive to rimonabant and O-1918, an antagonist at the putative "abnormal-cannabidiol" or endothelial "anandamide" receptors. Vasodilation is mediated by endothelium-derived nitric oxide, endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization, and also through activation of TRPV1 receptors. A physiological role for oleamide in the heart and circulation has yet to be demonstrated, as has production by cells of the cardiovascular system, but this molecule has a range of actions that could give it considerable modulatory power.