Absorption of D- and L-carnitine by the intestine and kidney tubule in the rat

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1984 May 16;772(2):209-19. doi: 10.1016/0005-2736(84)90046-4.


The process by which L- and D-carnitine are absorbed was investigated using the live rat and the isolated vascularly perfused intestine. A lumenal dose of 2-6 nmol in the perfused intestine resulted in less than 5% transport of either isomer to the perfusate in 30 min. The L-isomer was taken up by the intestinal tissue about twice as rapidly as the D-isomer by both the perfused intestine (52.8% and 21.6%, respectively) and the live animal (80% and 50%, respectively) in 30 min. After 1 h 90% of the L-carnitine had accumulated in the intestinal tissue and was released to the circulation over the next several hours. Accumulation of D-carnitine reached a maximum of 80% in 2 h and release to the circulations was similar to that of L-carnitine. Uptake of both L-[14C]carnitine and acetyl-L-[14C]carnitine was more rapid in the upper jejunal segment than in other portions of the small intestine. Acetylation occurred in all segments, resulting in nearly 50% conversion to this derivative in 5 min. Increasing the dose of L-carnitine reduced the percent acetylation. The uptake of both isomers was a saturable process and high concentrations of D-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine and trimethylaminobutyrate inhibited L-carnitine uptake. In the live animal after 5 h, the distribution of isotope from L-[14C]carnitine and D-[3H]carnitine differed primarily in the muscle where 29.5% of the L-carnitine and 5.3% of the D-carnitine was found and in the urine where 2.9% of the L-carnitine and 7.1% of the D-carnitine was found. The renal threshold for L-carnitine was 80 microM and for D-carnitine 30 microM, in the isolated perfused kidney. Approx. 40% of the L-carnitine but none of the D-carnitine excreted in the urine was acetylated. L-Carnitine and D-carnitine competed for tubular reabsorption.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Carnitine / metabolism*
  • Duodenum / metabolism
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Jejunum / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Carnitine