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Systematic Evaluation of Key L-Carnitine Homeostasis Mechanisms during Postnatal Development in Rat

Binbing Ling1, Caroline Aziz2 and Jane Alcorn1*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, 110 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5C9, Canada

2 Toxicology Centre, University of Saskatchewan, 44 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B3, Canada

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:66  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-66

Published: 17 July 2012



The conditionally essential nutrient, L-carnitine, plays a critical role in a number of physiological processes vital to normal neonatal growth and development. We conducted a systematic evaluation of the developmental changes in key L-carnitine homeostasis mechanisms in the postnatal rat to better understand the interrelationship between these pathways and their correlation to ontogenic changes in L-carnitine levels during postnatal development.


mRNA expression of heart, kidney and intestinal L-carnitine transporters, liver γ-butyrobetaine hydroxylase (Bbh) and trimethyllysine hydroxylase (Tmlh), and heart carnitine palmitoyltransferase (Cpt) were measured using quantitative RT-PCR. L-Carnitine levels were determined by HPLC-UV. Cpt and Bbh activity were measured by a spectrophotometric method and HPLC, respectively.


Serum and heart L-carnitine levels increased with postnatal development. Increases in serum L-carnitine correlated significantly with postnatal increases in renal organic cation/carnitine transporter 2 (Octn2) expression, and was further matched by postnatal increases in intestinal Octn1 expression and hepatic γ-Bbh activity. Postnatal increases in heart L-carnitine levels were significantly correlated to postnatal increases in heart Octn2 expression. Although cardiac high energy phosphate substrate levels remained constant through postnatal development, creatine showed developmental increases with advancing neonatal age. mRNA levels of Cpt1b and Cpt2 significantly increased at postnatal day 20, which was not accompanied by a similar increase in activity.


Several L-carnitine homeostasis pathways underwent significant ontogenesis during postnatal development in the rat. This information will facilitate future studies on factors affecting the developmental maturation of L-carnitine homeostasis mechanisms and how such factors might affect growth and development.

L-Carnitine; Homeostasis; Postnatal development; Rat