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NAAA-regulated lipid signaling governs the transition from acute to chronic pain


Chronic pain affects 1.5 billion people worldwide but remains woefully undertreated. Understanding the molecular events leading to its emergence is necessary to discover disease-modifying therapies. Here we show that N-acylethanolamine acid amidase (NAAA) is a critical control point in the progression to pain chronicity, which can be effectively targeted by small-molecule therapeutics that inhibit this enzyme. NAAA catalyzes the deactivating hydrolysis of palmitoylethanolamide, a lipid-derived agonist of the transcriptional regulator of cellular metabolism, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPAR-α). Our results show that disabling NAAA in spinal cord during a 72-h time window following peripheral tissue injury halts chronic pain development in male and female mice by triggering a PPAR-α-dependent reprogramming of local core metabolism from aerobic glycolysis, which is transiently enhanced after end-organ damage, to mitochondrial respiration. The results identify NAAA as a crucial control node in the transition to chronic pain and a molecular target for disease-modifying medicines.

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