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Pediatr Res. 2008 Jun;63(6):632-7. doi: 10.1203/PDR.0b013e31816ff6f0.

Carnitine supplementation induces acylcarnitine production in tissues of very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase-deficient mice, without replenishing low free carnitine.

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Department of General Pediatrics, University Children's Hospital, Duesseldorf D-40225, Germany.


Deficiency of very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (VLCAD) results in accumulation of C14-C18 acylcarnitines and low free carnitine. Carnitine supplementation is still controversial. VLCAD knockout (VLCAD(+/-)) mice exhibit a similar clinical and biochemical phenotype to those observed in humans. VLCAD(+/-) mice were fed with carnitine dissolved in drinking water. Carnitine, acylcarnitines, and gamma-butyrobetaine were measured in blood and tissues. Measurements were performed under resting conditions, after exercise and after 24 h of regeneration. HepG2 cells were incubated with palmitoyl-CoA and palmitoyl-carnitine, respectively, to examine toxicity. With carnitine supplementation, acylcarnitine production was significantly induced. Nevertheless, carnitine was low in skeletal muscle after exercise. Without carnitine supplementation, liver carnitine significantly increased after exercise, and after 24 h of regeneration, carnitine concentrations in skeletal muscle completely replenished to initial values. Incubation of hepatic cells with palmitoyl-CoA and palmitoyl-carnitine revealed a significantly reduced cell viability after incubation with palmitoyl-carnitine. The present study demonstrates that carnitine supplementation results in significant accumulation of potentially toxic acylcarnitines in tissues. The expected prevention of low tissue carnitine was not confirmed. The principle mechanism regulating carnitine homeostasis seems to be endogenous carnitine biosynthesis, also under conditions with increased demand of carnitine such as in VLCAD-deficiency.

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