The neurobiology of acetyl-L-carnitine

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2016 Jun 1;21(7):1314-29. doi: 10.2741/4459.


A large body of evidence points to the positive effects of dietary supplementation of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC). Its use has shown health benefits in neuroinflammation, which is a common denominator in a host of neurodegenerative diseases. ALC is the principal acetyl ester of L-Carnitine (LC), and it plays an essential role in intermediary metabolism, acting as a donor of acetyl groups and facilitating the transfer of fatty acids from cytosol to mitochondria during beta-oxidation. Dietary supplementation of ALC exerts neuroprotective, neurotrophic, antidepressive and analgesic effects in painful neuropathies. ALC also has antioxidant and anti-apoptotic activity. Moreover, ALC exhibits positive effects on mitochondrial metabolism, and shows promise in the treatment of aging and neurodegenerative pathologies by slowing the progression of mental deterioration. In addition, ALC plays neuromodulatory effects on both synaptic morphology and synaptic transmission. These effects are likely due to affects of ALC through modulation of gene expression on several targets in the central nervous system. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on effects of ALC in the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / pharmacology*
  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Heme Oxygenase-1 / genetics
  • Hirudo medicinalis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Animal
  • Nerve Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Heme Oxygenase-1

Supplementary concepts

  • Neuropathy, Painful