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Advances in the discovery of N-acylethanolamine acid amidase inhibitors.


N-Acylethanolamine acid amidase (NAAA) is a cysteine amidase that hydrolyzes saturated or monounsaturated fatty acid ethanolamides, such as palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA). PEA has been shown to exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects by engaging peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α. Like other fatty acid ethanolamides, PEA is not stored in cells, but produced on demand from cell membrane precursors, and its actions are terminated by intracellular hydrolysis by either fatty acid amide hydrolase or NAAA. Endogenous levels of PEA and OEA have been shown to decrease during inflammation. Modulation of the tissue levels of PEA by inhibition of enzymes responsible for the breakdown of this lipid mediator may represent therefore a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of pain and inflammation. While a large number of inhibitors of fatty acid amide hydrolase have been discovered, few compounds have been reported to inhibit NAAA activity. Here, we describe the most representative NAAA inhibitors and briefly highlight their pharmacological profile. A recent study has shown that a NAAA inhibitor attenuated heat hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia caused by local inflammation or nerve damage in animal models of pain and inflammation. This finding encourages further exploration of the pharmacology of NAAA inhibitors.

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