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Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Jun 24;613(1-3):54-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.04.022. Epub 2009 Apr 20.

Central administration of palmitoylethanolamide reduces hyperalgesia in mice via inhibition of NF-kappaB nuclear signalling in dorsal root ganglia.

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Department of Experimental Pharmacology, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy.


Despite the clear roles played by peroxisome proliferators-activated receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha) in lipid metabolism, inflammation and feeding, the effects of its activation in the central nervous system (CNS) are largely unknown. Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a member of the fatty-acid ethanolamide family, acts peripherally as an endogenous PPAR-alpha agonist, exerting analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Both PPAR-alpha and PEA are present in the CNS, but the specific functions of this lipid and its receptor remain to be clarified. Using the carrageenan-induced paw model of hyperalgesia in mice, we report here that intracerebroventricular administration of PEA (0.1-1 microg) 30 min before carrageenan injection markedly reduced mechanical hyperalgesia up to 24 h following inflammatory insult. This effect was mimicked by GW7647 (1 microg), a synthetic PPAR-alpha agonist. The obligatory role of PPAR-alpha in mediating PEA's actions was confirmed by the lack of anti-hyperalgesic effects in mutant mice lacking PPAR-alpha. PEA significantly reduced the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in sciatic nerves and restored carrageenan-induced reductions of PPAR-alpha in the L4-L6 dorsal root ganglia (DRG). To investigate the mechanism by which PEA attenuated hyperalgesia, we evaluated inhibitory kB-alpha (IkB-alpha) degradation and p65 nuclear factor kB (NF-kappaB) activation in DRG. PEA prevented IkB-alpha degradation and p65 NF-kappaB nuclear translocation, confirming the involvement of this transcriptional factor in the control of peripheral hyperalgesia. These results add further support to the broad-spectrum of biological and pharmacological effects induced by PPAR-alpha agonists, suggesting a centrally mediated component for these drugs in controlling inflammatory pain.

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