Carnitine is essential for the transfer of long-chain fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for subsequent beta-oxidation. A defect in the high-affinity carnitine transporter OCTN2 causes autosomal recessive primary carnitine deficiency that can present with hypoketotic hypoglycemia, mainly in infancy or cardiomyopathy. Heterozygotes for primary carnitine deficiency can have mildly reduced plasma carnitine levels and can develop benign cardiac hypertrophy. In animal models, heterozygotes for this disease have a higher incidence of cardiomyopathy with aging. This study tested whether heterozygosity for primary carnitine deficiency was associated with cardiomyopathy. The frequency of mutations in the SLC22A5 gene encoding the OCTN2 carnitine transporter was determined in 324 patients with cardiomyopathy and compared to that described in the normal population. Missense variations identified in normal controls and patients with cardiomyopathy were expressed in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells to confirm a functional effect. Exons 2-10 of the SLC22A5 gene were amplified by PCR in the presence of LCGreen I and analyzed by dye-binding/high-resolution thermal denaturation. Exon 1 of the gene was sequenced in all patients. Heterozygosity for a few variants (L144F, T264M, I312V, E317K, and R488H) was found in 6/324 patients with cardiomyopathy. Expression of these variants in CHO cells indicated that T264M decreased, E317K increased, while L144F, I312V, and R488H did not significantly affect carnitine transport. Expression in CHO cells of all the variants identified in a normal population indicated that only two had a functional effect (L17F and Y449D), while L144F, V481I, V481F, M530V, and P549S did not change significantly carnitine transport. The frequency of variants affecting carnitine transport was 2/324 patients with cardiomyopathy (0.61%) not significantly different from frequency of 3/270 (1.11%) in the general population. These results indicate that heterozygosity for primary carnitine deficiency is not more frequent in patients with unselected types of cardiomyopathy and is unlikely to be an important cause of cardiomyopathy in humans.