N-acylation of phosphatidylethanolamine and its biological functions in mammals

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Mar;1831(3):652-62. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2012.08.019. Epub 2012 Sep 8.


N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE) and N-acylplasmenylethanolamine (pNAPE) are widely found phospholipids, and they are precursors for N-acylethanolamines, a group of compounds that has a variety of biological effects and encompasses the endocannabinoid anandamide. NAPE and pNAPE are synthesized by the transfer of an acyl chain from a donor phospholipid, to the amine in phosphatidylethanolamine or plasmenylethanolamine. NAPE has been reported to stabilize model membranes during brain ischemia, and to modulate food intake in rodents, thus having bioactive effects besides its precursor role. This paper reviews the metabolism, occurrence and assay of NAPE and pNAPE, and discusses the putative biological functions in mammals of these phospholipids. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Phospholipids and Phospholipid Metabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Arachidonic Acids / chemistry
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / chemistry
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Ethanolamines / chemistry
  • Ethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / chemistry
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism*
  • Rodentia / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • N-acylethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Type C Phospholipases
  • Phospholipase D
  • anandamide