Urinary excretion of l-carnitine and acylcarnitines by patients with disorders of organic acid metabolism: evidence for secondary insufficiency of l-carnitine

Pediatr Res. 1984 Dec;18(12):1325-8. doi: 10.1203/00006450-198412000-00021.


Concentrations of l-carnitine and acylcarnitines have been determined in urine from patients with disorders of organic acid metabolism associated with an intramitochondrial accumulation of acyl-CoA intermediates. These included propionic acidemia, methylmalonic aciduria, isovaleric acidemia, multicarboxylase deficiency, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric aciduria, methylacetoacetyl-CoA thiolase deficiency, and various dicarboxylic acidurias including glutaric aciduria, medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, and multiple acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. In all cases, concentrations of acylcarnitines were greatly increased above normal with free carnitine concentrations ranging from undetectable to supranormal values. The ratios of acylcarnitine/carnitine were elevated above the normal value of 2.0 +/- 1.1. l-Carnitine was given to three of these patients; in each case, concentrations of plasma and urine carnitines increased accompanied by a marked increase in concentrations of short-chain acylcarnitines. These acylcarnitines have been examined using fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry in some of these diseases and have been shown to be propionylcarnitine in methylmalonic aciduria and propionic acidemia, isovalerylcarnitine in isovaleric acidemia, and hexanoylcarnitine and octanoylcarnitine in medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. The excretion of these acylcarnitines is compatible with the known accumulation of the corresponding acyl-CoA esters in these diseases. In this group of disorders, the increased acylcarnitine/carnitine ratio in urine and plasma indicates an imbalance of mitochondrial mass action homeostasis and, hence, of acyl-CoA/CoA ratios. Despite naturally occurring attempts to increase endogeneous l-carnitine biosynthesis, there is insufficient carnitine available to restore the mass action ratio as demonstrated by the further increase in acylcarnitine excretion when patients were given oral l-carnitine.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / urine*
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnitine / urine*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methylmalonic Acid / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Pentanoic Acids / blood
  • Propionates / blood


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Pentanoic Acids
  • Propionates
  • propionylcarnitine
  • isovaleric acid
  • 3-methylbutyrylcarnitine
  • Methylmalonic Acid
  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenases
  • Lysine
  • octanoylcarnitine
  • Carnitine