N-Acylethanolamines (NAEs) and N-acylphosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs) are naturally occurring membrane lipids, whose content increases dramatically in a variety of organisms when subjected to stress, suggesting that they may play a role in the stress-combating mechanisms of organisms. In the light of this, it is of great interest to characterize the structure, physical properties, phase transitions and membrane interactions of these two classes of lipids. This review will present the current status of our understanding of the structure and phase behaviour of NAEs and NAPEs and their interaction with major membrane lipids, namely phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine and cholesterol. The relevance of such interactions to the putative stress-combating and membrane stabilizing properties of these lipids will also be discussed. © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.