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FEBS Lett. 1999 Jul 9;454(3):207-9.

The effect of aging and acetyl-L-carnitine on the pyruvate transport and oxidation in rat heart mitochondria.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Bari, Italy.


The effect of aging and acute treatment with acetyl-L-carnitine on the pyruvate transport and oxidation in rat heart mitochondria was studied. The activity of the pyruvate carrier as well as the rates of pyruvate-supported respiration were both depressed (around 40%) in heart mitochondria from aged rats, the major decrease occurring during the second year of life. Administration of acetyl-L-carnitine to aged rats almost completely restored the rates of these metabolic functions to the level of young control rats. This effect of acetyl-L-carnitine was not due to changes in the content of pyruvate carrier molecules. The heart mitochondrial content of cardiolipin, a key phospholipid necessary for mitochondrial substrate transport, was markedly reduced (approximately 40%) in aged rats. Treatment of aged rats with acetyl-L-carnitine reversed the age-associated decline in cardiolipin content. As the changes in cardiolipin content were correlated with changes in rates of pyruvate transport and oxidation, it is suggested that acetyl-L-carnitine reverses the age-related decrement in the mitochondrial pyruvate metabolism by restoring the normal cardiolipin content.

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