Homeostasis by our own signaling lipid molecules, in animals as well as in plants: role of palmitoylethanolamide

Palmitoylethanolamide, a NAE

Palmitoylethanolamide, a NAE

Endogenous lipids such as palmitoylethanolamide promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism as a whole.

These important lipids are sometimes refered to as primary fatty acid amides (PFAM), or as N acetyl Ethanolamides (NAEs).

Endogenous lipids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, molecules sch as PEA can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.

In 1902 Thomas Edison said,

“There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of disease as now, and all their discoveries are tending toward the simple truth that you can’t improve on nature.”

PEA research has proven this statement is still valid.

On demand restoration of homeostasis via our own lipids

Based on original observations carried out with the lipid signaling molecule anandamide it was postulated that this lipid transmitter is not stored in ‘resting’ cells but is, instead, synthesized and released ‘on demand’ following physiological and pathological stimuli, such as neuronal depolarization and bacterial lipopolysaccharides, possibly depending on the Ca2+-dependent remodelling of phospholipid precursors.

PEA belongs to a class of endogenous lipid-signalling molecules that are all generated in the cell membrane from phospholipid precursors.

Compounds such as PEA have a much broader biological significance as many people think. In 2010 a group of biologists wrote wbout this class of signaling molecules:

Fatty acid amides are a group of nitrogen-containing, lipid-soluble fatty acid derivatives, many of which display potent biological activities at very low concentrations. This group of compounds includes the fam-ily of N-acylethanolamines (NAE), minor lipid constituents naturally present in a variety of organisms from fungi to plants to mammals. Most of the work on NAE thus far has been in mammalian systems where these lipids exert diverse physiological, behavioral and neurological roles as part of the endocannabinoid signaling system. Corresponding studies on the function of NAE in plants have appeared only recently and much remains to be understood regarding the role of these fatty acid amides in plant physiology.

The authors point out that the acyl chain length of the NARs in plants, and degree of saturation vary, probably hust as in animals, depending upon the tissue, developmental stage, and pathological condition of the plant.

Plant NAE the authors point out, were first identified in processed, seed-derived products at concentrations several fold higher than typically found in vegetative plant tissues . For instance before 1960 it was already kmown that PEA could be extracted from peanuts. The NAE types identified in seeds are composed of 12–18 carbons with zero to three double bonds, being the most abundant. These major types of NAE identified in seeds are similar to those that occur in animal tissues.

The compounds extracted from seeds have a clear biological activity in animal tissue too, and they referred to extracted NAE18:2 and NAE16:0 ( palmitoylthanolamide) from cottonseed refining fractions. These NAExs exhibit neuromodulatory activities in spinal chord-derived neuronal networks cultured on microelectrode arrays.

Based on many analysis of NAE content in plants and their seeds , and because of the elevated concentrations of NAE in seeds, plants could provide a rich source of these compounds for therapeutic applications for modulating the NAE systems in mammals, as we currently do in the clinic with PEA. However, PEA concentrations in seeds are a bit small for obtaining clinical effects, as we need to administer 800-2000 mg/ day of PEA to reach clinical relevant dosages. Therefore it is more convenient to dose with pure PEA from a supplement such as PeaPure.

Based on:

Fatty acid amide lipid mediators in plants, by
Sang-Chul Kim, Kent D. Chapman, Elison B. Blancaflor
Plant Science 178 (2010) 411–419

Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System by Dustin Sulak, DO, http://norml.org/library/item/introduction-to-the-endocannabinoid-system

The endocannabinoid system: a general view and latest additions, by Luciano De Petrocellis, Maria Grazia Cascio, and Vincenzo Di Marzo http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1574255/

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