Plasma and muscle free carnitine deficiency due to renal Fanconi syndrome

I. Bernardini, W. B. Rizzo, M. Dalakas, W. A. Gahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Plasma and urine free and acyl carnitine were measured in 19 children with nephropathic cystinosis and renal Fanconi syndrome. Each patient exhibited a deficiency of plasma free carnitine (mean 11.7 ± 4.0 [SD] nmol/ml) compared with normal control values (42.0 ± 9.0 nmol/ml) (P < 0.001). Mean plasma acyl carnitine in the cystinotic subjects was normal. Four subjects with Fanconi syndrome but not cystinosis displayed the same abnormal pattern of plasma carnitine levels; controls with acidosis or a lysosomal storage disorder (Fabry disease), but not Fanconi syndrome, had entirely normal plasma carnitine levels. Two postrenal transplant subjects with cystinosis but without Fanconi syndrome, also had normal plasma carnitine levels. Absolute amounts of urinary free carnitine were elevated in cystinotic individuals with Fanconi syndrome. In all 21 subjects with several different etiologies for the Fanconi syndrome, the mean fractional excretion of free carnitine (33%) as well as acyl carnitine (26%) greatly exceeded normal values (3 and 5%, respectively). Total free carnitine excretion in Fanconi syndrome patients correlated with total amino acid excretion (r = 0.76). Two cystinotic patients fasted for 24 h and one idiopathic Fanconi syndrome patient fasted for 5 h showed normal increases in plasma β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, which suggested that hepatic fatty acid oxidation was intact despite very low plasma free carnitine levels. Muscle biopsies from two cystinotic subjects with Fanconi syndrome and plasma carnitine deficiency had 8.5 and 13.1 nmol free carnitine per milligram of noncollagen protein, respectively (normal controls, 22.3 and 17.1); total carnitines were 11.8 and 13.3 nmol/mg noncollagen protein (controls 33.5, 20.0). One biopsy revealed a mild increase in lipid droplets. The other showed mild myopathic features with variation in muscle fiber size, small vacuoles, and an increase in lipid droplets. In renal Fanconi syndrome, failure to reabsorb free and acyl carnitine results in a secondary plasma and muscle free carnitine deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1124-1130
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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