Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α mediates acute effects of palmitoylethanolamide on sensory neurons

J Neurosci. 2012 Sep 12;32(37):12735-43. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0130-12.2012.


The amplitude of the depolarization-evoked Ca2+ transient is larger in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from tumor-bearing mice compared with that of neurons from naive mice, and the change is mimicked by coculturing DRG neurons with the fibrosarcoma cells used to generate the tumors (Khasabova et al., 2007). The effect of palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a ligand for the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα), was determined on the evoked-Ca2+ transient in the coculture condition. The level of PEA was reduced in DRG cells from tumor-bearing mice as well as those cocultured with fibrosarcoma cells. Pretreatment with PEA, a synthetic PPARα agonist (GW7647), or ARN077, an inhibitor of the enzyme that hydrolyzes PEA, acutely decreased the amplitude of the evoked Ca2+ transient in small DRG neurons cocultured with fibrosarcoma cells. The PPARα antagonist GW6471 blocked the effect of each. In contrast, the PPARα agonist was without effect in the control condition, but the antagonist increased the amplitude of the Ca2+ transient, suggesting that PPARα receptors are saturated by endogenous ligand under basal conditions. Effects of drugs on mechanical sensitivity in vivo paralleled their effects on DRG neurons in vitro. Local injection of ARN077 decreased mechanical hyperalgesia in tumor-bearing mice, and the effect was blocked by GW6471. These data support the conclusion that the activity of DRG neurons is rapidly modulated by PEA through a PPARα-dependent mechanism. Moreover, agents that increase the activity of PPARα may provide a therapeutic strategy to reduce tumor-evoked pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amides
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism*
  • Palmitic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • Amides
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • PPAR alpha
  • Palmitic Acids
  • palmidrol