Relationship between plasma free fatty acid, intramyocellular triglycerides and long-chain acylcarnitines in resting humans

J Physiol. 2009 Dec 15;587(Pt 24):5939-50. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.180695.


We hypothesized that plasma non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) are trafficked directly to intramyocellular long-chain acylcarnitines (imLCAC) rather than transiting intramyocellular triglycerides (imTG) on the way to resting muscle fatty acid oxidation. Overnight fasted adults (n = 61) received intravenous infusions of [U-(13)C]palmitate (0400-0830 h) and [U-(13)C]oleate (0800-1400 h) labelling plasma NEFA, imTG, imLCAC and im-non-esterified FA (imNEFA). Two muscle biopsies (0830 and 1400 h) were performed following 6 h, overlapping, sequential palmitate/oleate tracer infusions. Enrichment of plasma palmitate was approximately 15 times greater than enrichment of imTG, imNEFA-palmitate and im-palmitoyl-carnitine. Fatty acid enrichment in LCAC was correlated with imTG and imNEFA; there was a significant correlation between imTG concentrations and imLCAC concentrations in women (r = 0.51, P = 0.005), but not men (r = 0.30, P = 0.11). We estimated that approximately 11% of NEFA were stored in imTG. imTG NEFA storage was correlated only with NEFA concentrations (r = 0.52, P = 0.004) in women and with V(O(2),peak) (r = 0.45, P = 0.02) in men. At rest, plasma NEFA are trafficked largely to imTG before they enter LCAC oxidative pools; thus, imTG are an important, central pool that regulates the delivery of fatty acids to the intracellular environment. Factors relating to plasma NEFA storage into imTG differ in men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Triglycerides
  • acylcarnitine
  • Carnitine