L-carnitine prevents the progression of atherosclerotic lesions in hypercholesterolaemic rabbits

Pharmacol Res. 2001 Sep;44(3):235-42. doi: 10.1006/phrs.2001.0852.


This study has been initiated to investigate, in hypercholesterolaemic rabbits, whether L-carnitine deficiency could be an additional risk factor in atherosclerosis, and if so, whether L-carnitine supplementation could prevent the progression of atherosclerosis. Hypercholesterolaemia was induced by feeding rabbits 2% cholesterol-enriched diet for 28 days, whereas, carnitine deficiency was induced by daily i.p. administration of 250 mg kg(-1) of D-carnitine for 28 days. Histopathological examination of aorta and coronaries from hypercholesterolaemic rabbits revealed severe atherosclerotic lesions, intimal plaques and foam cell formation. Also, hypercholesterolaemic diet resulted in a significant 53 and 43% decrease in reduced glutathion (GSH) levels and a significant (1.87-fold) and (14.1-fold) increase in malonedialdhyde (MDA) levels in aorta and cardiac tissues, respectively. Daily administration of L-carnitine (250 mg kg(-1)) for 28 days, completely prevented the progression of atherosclerotic lesions induced by hpercholesterolaemia in both aorta and coronaries. Conversely, daily administration of D-carnitine (250 mg kg(-1)) for 28 days increased the progression of atherosclerotic lesions with the appearance of foam cells and apparent intimal plaques which are even larger than that seen in hypercholesterolaemic rabbits. Both L-carnitine and D-carnitine produced similar effects on the lipid profile, GSH and MDA which may point to the conclusion that: (1) L-carnitine prevents the progression of atherosclerotic lesions by another mechanism in addition to its antioxidant and lipid-lowering effects; (2) endogenous carnitine depletion and/or carnitine deficiency should be viewed as an additional risk factor in atherogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / drug effects
  • Aorta, Thoracic / pathology
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology*
  • Arteriosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Carnitine / deficiency
  • Carnitine / pharmacology
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Coronary Vessels / drug effects
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / chemically induced
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / pathology*
  • Male
  • Rabbits
  • Risk Factors


  • Carnitine