Production and release of acylcarnitines by primary myotubes reflect the differences in fasting fat oxidation of the donors

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jun;98(6):E1137-42. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-3976. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Context: Acylcarnitines are biomarkers of incomplete β-oxidation and mitochondrial lipid overload but indicate also high rates of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. It is unknown whether the production of acylcarnitines in primary human myotubes obtained from lean, metabolically healthy subjects reflects the fat oxidation in vivo.

Objective: Our objective was to quantify the acylcarnitine production in myotubes obtained from subjects with low and high fasting respiratory quotient (RQ).

Methods: Fasting RQ was determined by indirect calorimetry. Muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis muscle were taken from 6 subjects with low fasting RQ (mean 0.79 ± 0.03) and 6 with high fasting RQ (0.90 ± 0.03), and satellite cells were isolated, cultured, and differentiated to myotubes. Myotubes were cultivated with 125 μM (13)C-labeled palmitate for 30 minutes and 4 and 24 hours. Quantitative profiling of 42 intracellular and 31 extracellular acylcarnitines was performed by stable isotope dilution-based metabolomics analysis by liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry.

Results: Myotubes from donors with high fasting RQ produced and released significant higher amounts of medium-chain acylcarnitines. High (13)C8 and (13)C10 acylcarnitine levels in the extracellular compartment correlated with high fasting RQ. The decreased expression of medium-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase (MCAD) in these myotubes can explain the higher rate of incomplete fatty acid oxidation. A lower intracellular [(13)C]acetylcarnitine to carnitine and lower intracellular (13)C16/(13)C18 acylcarnitine to carnitine ratio indicate reduced fatty acid oxidation capacity in these myotubes. Mitochondrial DNA content was not different.

Conclusion: Acylcarnitine production and release from primary human myotubes of donors with high fasting RQ indicate a reduced fatty acid oxidation capacity and a higher rate of incomplete fatty acid oxidation. Thus, quantitative profiling of acylcarnitine production in human myotubes can be a suitable tool to identify muscular determinants of fat oxidation in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / metabolism
  • Fasting / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • acylcarnitine
  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase
  • Carnitine