Acetyl-L-carnitine as a precursor of acetylcholine

Neurochem Res. 1990 Jun;15(6):597-601. doi: 10.1007/BF00973749.


Synthesis of [3H]acetylcholine from [3H]acetyl-L-carnitine was demonstrated in vitro by coupling the enzyme systems choline acetyltransferase and carnitine acetyltransferase. Likewise, both [3H] and [14C] labeled acetylcholine were produced when [3H]acetyl-L-carnitine and D-[U-14C] glucose were incubated with synaptosomal membrane preparations from rat brain. Transfer of the acetyl moiety from acetyl-L-carnitine to acetylcholine was dependent on concentration of acetyl-L-carnitine and required the presence of coenzyme A, which is normally produced as an inhibitory product of choline acetyltransferase. These results provide further evidence for a role of mitochondrial carnitine acetyltransferase in facilitating transfer of acetyl groups across mitochondrial membranes, thus regulating the availability in the cytoplasm of acetyl-CoA, a substrate of choline acetyltransferase. They are also consistent with a possible utility of acetyl-L-carnitine in the treatment of age-related cholinergic deficits.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / metabolism*
  • Acetylcholine / biosynthesis*
  • Animals
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Carnitine O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Coenzyme A / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synaptosomes / enzymology


  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Carnitine O-Acetyltransferase
  • Glucose
  • Acetylcholine
  • Coenzyme A