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Mol Aspects Med. 2004 Oct-Dec;25(5-6):475-93.

Carnitine acyltransferases and their influence on CoA pools in health and disease.

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Centre for Biomolecular Sciences, University of St. Andrews, North Haugh, St. Andrews KY16 9ST, Scotland, UK.


Cells contain limited and sequestered pools of Coenzyme A (CoA) that are essential for activating carboxylate metabolites. Some acyl-CoA esters have high metabolic and signalling impact, so control of CoA ester concentrations is important. This and transfer of the activated acyl moieties between cell compartments without wasting energy on futile cycles of hydrolysis and resynthesis is achieved through the carnitine system. The location, properties of and deficiencies in the carnitine acyltransferases are described in relation to their influence on the CoA pools in the cell and, hence, on metabolism. The protection of free CoA pools in disease states is achieved by excretion of acyl-carnitine so that carnitine supplementation is required where unwanted acyl groups build up, such as in some inherited disorders of fatty acid oxidation. Acetyl-carnitine improves cognition in the brain and propionyl-carnitine improves cardiac performance in heart disease and diabetes. The therapeutic effects of carnitine and its esters are discussed in relation to the integrative influence of the carnitine system across CoA pools. Recent evidence for sequestered pools of activated acetate for synthesis of malonyl-CoA, for the synthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids and for the inhibition of carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 to regulate fatty acid oxidation is reviewed.

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