Heptadecanoylcarnitine (C17) a novel candidate biomarker for newborn screening of propionic and methylmalonic acidemias

Clin Chim Acta. 2015 Oct 23:450:342-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2015.09.012. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


Background: 3-Hydroxypalmitoleoyl-carnitine (C16:1-OH) has recently been reported to be elevated in acylcarnitine profiles of patients with propionic acidemia (PA) or methylmalonic acidemia (MMA) during expanded newborn screening (NBS). High levels of C16:1-OH, combined with other hydroxylated long chain acylcarnitines are related to long-chain 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (LCHADD) and trifunctional protein (TFP) deficiency.

Methods: The acylcarnitine profile of two LCHADD patients was evaluated using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometric method. A specific retention time was determined for each hydroxylated long chain acylcarnitine. The same method was applied to some neonatal dried blood spots (DBSs) from PA and MMA patients presenting abnormal C16:1-OH concentrations.

Results: The retention time of the peak corresponding to C16:1-OH in LCHADD patients differed from those in MMA and PA patients. Heptadecanoylcarnitine (C17) has been identified as the novel biomarker specific for PA and MMA patients through high resolution mass spectrometry (Orbitrap) experiments. We found that 21 out of 23 neonates (22 MMA, and 1PA) diagnosed through the Tuscany region NBS program exhibited significantly higher levels of C17 compared to controls. Twenty-three maternal deficiency (21 vitamin B12 deficiency, 1 homocystinuria and 1 gastrin deficiency) samples and 82 false positive for elevated propionylcarnitine (C3) were also analyzed.

Conclusions: We have characterized a novel biomarker able to detect propionate disorders during expanded newborn screening (NBS). The use of this new biomarker may improve the analytical performances of NBS programs especially in laboratories where second tier tests are not performed.

Keywords: Acylcarnitine; Expanded newborn screening; Heptadecanoylcarnitine; Methylmalonic acidemia; Propionic acidemia; Propionylcarnitine.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / blood*
  • Amino Acid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Propionic Acidemia / blood*
  • Propionic Acidemia / diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Biomarkers
  • heptadecanoylcarnitine
  • Carnitine

Supplementary concepts

  • Methylmalonic acidemia