Carnitine derivatives: clinical usefulness

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;28(2):166-76. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e3283505a3b.


Purpose of review: Carnitine and its derivatives are natural substances involved in both carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. This review summarizes the recent progress in the field in relation to the molecular mechanisms.

Recent findings: The pool of different carnitine derivatives is formed by acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC), and isovaleryl-carnitine. ALC may have a preferential effect on the brain tissue. ALC represents a compound of great interest for its wide clinical application in various neurological disorders: it may be of benefit in treating Alzheimer's dementia, depression in the elderly, HIV infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, peripheral neuropathies, ischemia and reperfusion of the brain, and cognitive impairment associated with various conditions. PLC has been demonstrated to replenish the intermediates of the tricarboxylic acid cycle by the propionyl-CoA moiety, a greater affinity for the sarcolemmal carrier, peripheral vasodilator activity, a greater positive inotropism, and more rapid entry into myocytes. Most studies of the therapeutic use of PLC are focused on the prevention and treatment of ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, hypertrophic heart disease, and peripheral arterial disease. ALC and PLC are considered well tolerated without significant side-effects.

Summary: A number of therapeutic effects possibly come from the interaction of carnitine and its derivatives with the elements of cellular membranes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Nootropic Agents
  • propionylcarnitine
  • 3-methylbutyrylcarnitine
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Carnitine