Measurement of L-carnitine and acylcarnitines in body fluids and tissues in children and in adults

Clin Chim Acta. 1990 Mar 15;187(3):317-28. doi: 10.1016/0009-8981(90)90117-b.


We have developed a reliable and validated radio-enzymatic method for the assay of L-carnitine and acylcarnitines, using a modification of existing methods. The sensitivity of the assay is 10 mumol/l using 10 microliters of plasma or urine. It is also suitable for measurements of carnitine in a 10 mg sample of liver or muscle obtained by percutaneous biopsy. The use of N-ethylmaleimide in the reaction mixture together with an excess of [1-14C]acetyl CoA ensures that the reaction proceeds to completion and a linear response is obtained. Using this method control ranges have been established for plasma and urine carnitine concentrations in healthy children and adults, and for the carnitine content of liver and muscle in adults. No significant difference was found between fasting and post-prandial plasma carnitine levels. An age-related increase was found in urinary total carnitine and acylcarnitine concentration throughout childhood. These data provide a reliable basis for studies of patients with abnormal carnitine and acylcarnitine metabolism, distribution and excretion.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / analysis*
  • Adult
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / urine
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / analysis*
  • Carnitine O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / analysis
  • Male
  • Muscles / analysis
  • Reference Values


  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Carnitine O-Acetyltransferase
  • Carnitine