New players in the fatty acyl ethanolamide metabolism

Pharmacol Res. 2014 Aug;86:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2014.04.001. Epub 2014 Apr 18.


Fatty acyl ethanolamides represent a class of endogenous bioactive lipid molecules and are generally referred to as N-acylethanolamines (NAEs). NAEs include palmitoylethanolamide (anti-inflammatory and analgesic substance), oleoylethanolamide (anorexic substance), and anandamide (endocannabinoid). The endogenous levels of NAEs are mainly regulated by enzymes responsible for their biosynthesis and degradation. In mammalian tissues, the major biosynthetic pathway starts from glycerophospholipids and is composed of two enzyme reactions. The first step is N-acylation of ethanolamine phospholipids catalyzed by Ca(2+)-dependent N-acyltransferase and the second step is the release of NAEs from N-acylated ethanolamine phospholipids by N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE)-hydrolyzing phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD). As for the degradation of NAEs, fatty acid amide hydrolase plays the central role. However, recent studies strongly suggest the involvement of other enzymes in the NAE metabolism. These enzymes include members of the HRAS-like suppressor family (also called phospholipase A/acyltransferase family), which were originally discovered as tumor suppressors but can function as Ca(2+)-independent NAPE-forming N-acyltransferases; multiple enzymes involved in the NAPE-PLD-independent multi-step pathways to generate NAE from NAPE, which came to light by the analysis of NAPE-PLD-deficient mice; and a lysosomal NAE-hydrolyzing acid amidase as a second NAE hydrolase. These newly recognized enzymes may become the targets for the development of new therapeutic drugs. Here, we focus on recent enzymological findings in this area.

Keywords: N-Acylethanolamine; N-Acylphosphatidylethanolamine; N-Acyltransferase; Oleoylethanolamide; Palmitoylethanolamide; Phospholipase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines / chemistry
  • Ethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oleic Acids / chemistry
  • Oleic Acids / metabolism*
  • Palmitic Acids / chemistry
  • Palmitic Acids / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / chemistry
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism*
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • N-acylethanolamines
  • Oleic Acids
  • Palmitic Acids
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • oleoylethanolamide
  • phosphatidylethanolamine
  • palmidrol
  • Acyltransferases
  • Phospholipase D