BACKGROUND: Carnitine acetyltransferase catalyzes the reversible conversion of acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) into acetylcarnitine. The aim of this study was to use the metabolic tracer hyperpolarized [2-(13)C]pyruvate with magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine whether carnitine acetyltransferase facilitates carbohydrate oxidation in the heart. METHODS AND RESULTS: Ex vivo, following hyperpolarized [2-(13)C]pyruvate infusion, the [1-(13)C]acetylcarnitine resonance was saturated with a radiofrequency pulse, and the effect of this saturation on [1-(13)C]citrate and [5-(13)C]glutamate was observed. In vivo, [2-(13)C]pyruvate was infused into 3 groups of fed male Wistar rats: (1) controls, (2) rats in which dichloroacetate enhanced pyruvate dehydrogenase flux, and (3) rats in which dobutamine elevated cardiac workload. In the perfused heart, [1-(13)C]acetylcarnitine saturation reduced the [1-(13)C]citrate and [5-(13)C]glutamate resonances by 63% and 51%, respectively, indicating a rapid exchange between pyruvate-derived acetyl-CoA and the acetylcarnitine pool. In vivo, dichloroacetate increased the rate of [1-(13)C]acetylcarnitine production by 35% and increased the overall acetylcarnitine pool size by 33%. Dobutamine decreased the rate of [1-(13)C]acetylcarnitine production by 37% and decreased the acetylcarnitine pool size by 40%. CONCLUSIONS: Hyperpolarized (13)C magnetic resonance spectroscopy has revealed that acetylcarnitine provides a route of disposal for excess acetyl-CoA and a means to replenish acetyl-CoA when cardiac workload is increased. Cycling of acetyl-CoA through acetylcarnitine appears key to matching instantaneous acetyl-CoA supply with metabolic demand, thereby helping to balance myocardial substrate supply and contractile function.

Original publication




Journal article


Circ Cardiovasc Imaging

Publication Date





201 - 209


Acetyl Coenzyme A, Acetylcarnitine, Animals, Carbon Isotopes, Carnitine O-Acetyltransferase, Citric Acid, Energy Metabolism, Glutamic Acid, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Myocardial Contraction, Myocardium, Oxidation-Reduction, Postprandial Period, Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex, Pyruvic Acid, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Time Factors