Acetyl-L-carnitine physical-chemical, metabolic, and therapeutic properties: relevance for its mode of action in Alzheimer's disease and geriatric depression
Pettegrew JW, Levine J, McClure RJ.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine,
University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.
Mol Psychiatry 2000 Nov;5(6):616-32


Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) contains carnitine and acetyl moieties, both of which have neurobiological properties. Carnitine is important in the beta-oxidation of fatty acids and the acetyl moiety can be used to maintain acetyl-CoA levels. Other reported neurobiological effects of ALCAR include modulation of: (1) brain energy and phospholipid metabolism; (2) cellular macromolecules, including neurotrophic factors and neurohormones; (3) synaptic morphology; and (4) synaptic transmission of multiple neurotransmitters. Potential molecular mechanisms of ALCAR activity include: (1) acetylation of -NH2 and -OH functional groups in amino acids and N terminal amino acids in peptides and proteins resulting in modification of their structure, dynamics, function and turnover; and (2) acting as a molecular chaperone to larger molecules resulting in a change in the structure, molecular dynamics, and function of the larger molecule. ALCAR is reported in double-blind controlled studies to have beneficial effects in major depressive disorders and Alzheimer's disease (AD), both of which are highly prevalent in the geriatric population.
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