Analysis of Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Derived N-Acylethanolamines in Biological Matrices

Renger F. Witkamp, Ian de Bus, Bauke Albada, Michiel G.J. Balvers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The adequate quantification of endocannabinoids and related N-acylethanolamines can be complex due to their low endogenous levels, structural diversity, and metabolism. Therefore, advanced analytical approaches, involving LC–MS, are required to quantify these molecules in plasma, tissues, and other matrices. It has been shown that endocannabinoid congeners synthesized from n-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), such as docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DHEA) and eicosapentaenoylethanolamide (EPEA), have interesting immunomodulatory and tumor-inhibiting properties. Recent work has shown that DHEA and EPEA can be further enzymatically metabolized by cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), forming oxygenated metabolites. Here, an LC–MS-based method for the quantification of the n-3 PUFA-derived endocannabinoid congeners DHEA and EPEA is described, which is also suited to measure a wider spectrum of endocannabinoids. The chapter contains a step-by-step protocol for the analysis of (n-3) endocannabinoids in plasma, including sample collection and solid phase extraction, LC–MS analysis, and data processing. In addition, protocol modifications are provided to allow quantification of n-3 PUFA-derived endocannabinoids and their COX-2 metabolites in tissues and cell culture media. Finally, conditions that alter endocannabinoid concentrations are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
EditorsM. Maccarrone
PublisherHumana Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781071627280
ISBN (Print)9781071627273
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745
ISSN (Electronic)1940-6029


  • Docosahexaenoylethanolamide
  • Eicosapentaenoylethanolamide
  • Endocannabinoids
  • LC–MS
  • n-3 fatty acid
  • Solid phase extraction


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