Prostaglandin glycerol esters (PG-Gs) and prostaglandin ethanolamides (PG-EAs) are generated by the action of cyclooxygenase-2 on the endocannabinoids 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) and arachidonylethanolamide, respectively. These novel eicosanoids may have unique pharmacological properties and/or serve as latent sources of prostaglandins at sites remote from their tissue of origin. Therefore, we investigated the metabolism of PG-Gs and PG-EAs in vitro and in vivo. PGE(2)-G was rapidly hydrolyzed in rat plasma to generate PGE(2) (t(1/2) = 14 s) but was only slowly metabolized in human plasma (t(1/2) > 10 min). An intermediate extent of metabolism of PGE(2)-G was observed in human whole blood (t(1/2) approximately 7 min). The parent arachidonylglycerol, 2-AG, and the more stable regioisomer, 1-AG, also were much more rapidly metabolized in rat plasma compared with human plasma. PGE(2)-EA was not significantly hydrolyzed in plasma, undergoing slow dehydration/isomerization to PGB(2)-EA. Both PGE(2)-G and PGE(2)-EA were stable in canine, bovine, and human cerebrospinal fluid. Human 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for the initial step in PG inactivation in vivo, oxidized both PGE(2)-G and PGE(2)-EA less efficiently than the free acid. The sterically hindered glyceryl prostaglandin was the poorest substrate examined in the E series. Minimal 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase oxidation of PGF(2 alpha)-G was observed. PGE(2)-G and PGE(2)-EA pharmacokinetics were assessed in rats. PGE(2)-G was not detected in plasma 5 min following an intravenous dose of 2 mg/kg. However, PGE(2)-EA was detectable up to 2 h following an identical dose, displaying a large apparent volume of distribution and a half-life of over 6 min. The results suggest that endocannabinoid-derived PG-like compounds may be sufficiently stable in humans to exert actions systemically. Furthermore, these results suggest that the rat is not an adequate model for investigating the biological activities of 2-arachidonylglycerol or glyceryl prostaglandins in humans.