L-carnitine supplementation as a potential antioxidant therapy for inherited neurometabolic disorders

Gene. 2014 Jan 10;533(2):469-76. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2013.10.017. Epub 2013 Oct 19.


In recent years increasing evidence has emerged suggesting that oxidative stress is involved in the pathophysiology of a number of inherited metabolic disorders. However the clinical use of classical antioxidants in these diseases has been poorly evaluated and so far no benefit has been demonstrated. l-Carnitine is an endogenous substance that acts as a carrier for fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membrane necessary for subsequent beta-oxidation and ATP production. Besides its important role in the metabolism of lipids, l-carnitine is also a potent antioxidant (free radical scavenger) and thus may protect tissues from oxidative damage. This review addresses recent findings obtained from patients with some inherited neurometabolic diseases showing that l-carnitine may be involved in the reduction of oxidative damage observed in these disorders. For some of these diseases, reduced concentrations of l-carnitine may occur due to the combination of this compound to the accumulating toxic metabolites, especially organic acids, or as a result of protein restricted diets. Thus, l-carnitine supplementation may be useful not only to prevent tissue deficiency of this element, but also to avoid oxidative damage secondary to increased production of reactive species in these diseases. Considering the ability of l-carnitine to easily cross the blood-brain barrier, l-carnitine supplementation may also be beneficial in preventing neurological damage derived from oxidative injury. However further studies are required to better explore this potential.

Keywords: 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal; ALC; ATP; Antioxidants; BCAA; BCKAD; CAT; CNS; CPT; GPx; GSH; H(2)O(2); HD; HNE; HSP; Huntington's disease; LC; LCAD; LCHAD; MCAD; MDA; MSUD; Neurometabolic disorders; Oxidative stress; PI3K; PKU; PLC; ROS; SOD; TAR; TBARS; VLCAD; acetyl-l-carnitine; adenosine triphosphate; branched-chain amino acids; branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase complex; carnitine palmitoyltransferase; catalase; central nervous system; glutathione peroxidase; heat shock protein; hydrogen peroxide; l-Carnitine; long-chain 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase; long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase; malondialdehyde; maple syrup urine disease; medium-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase; phenylketonuria; phosphoinositol-3 kinase; propionyl-l-carnitine; reactive oxygen species; reduced glutathione; superoxide dismutase; thiobarbituric acid reactive species; total antioxidant reactivity; very-long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic, Inborn / drug therapy*
  • Carnitine / deficiency
  • Carnitine / pharmacology
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Carnitine