Skip to main content

Reduced muscle carnosine content in type 2, but not in type 1 diabetic patients


Carnosine is present in high concentrations in skeletal muscle where it contributes to acid buffering and functions also as a natural protector against oxidative and carbonyl stress. Animal studies have shown an anti-diabetic effect of carnosine supplementation. High carnosinase activity, the carnosine degrading enzyme in serum, is a risk factor for diabetic complications in humans. The aim of the present study was to compare the muscle carnosine concentration in diabetic subjects to the level in non-diabetics. Type 1 and 2 diabetic patients and matched healthy controls (total n = 58) were included in the study. Muscle carnosine content was evaluated by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (3 Tesla) in soleus and gastrocnemius. Significantly lower carnosine content (−45%) in gastrocnemius muscle, but not in soleus, was shown in type 2 diabetic patients compared with controls. No differences were observed in type 1 diabetic patients. Type II diabetic patients display a reduced muscular carnosine content. A reduction in muscle carnosine concentration may be partially associated with defective mechanisms against oxidative, glycative and carbonyl stress in muscle.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2





Carnosine dipeptidase-1 gene




Magnetic resonance spectroscopy


  1. Aldini G, Orioli M, Rossoni G et al (2011) The carbonyl scavenger carnosine ameliorates dyslipidaemia and renal function in Zucker obese rats. J Cell Mol Med 15:1339–1354

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Artioli GG, Gualano B, Smith A, Stout J, Lancha AH Jr (2010) Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 42:1162–1173

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Baguet A, Reyngoudt H, Pottier A et al (2009) Carnosine loading and washout in human skeletal muscles. J Appl Physiol 106:837–842

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Bakardjiev A, Bauer K (1994) Transport of beta-alanine and biosynthesis of carnosine by skeletal muscle cells in primary culture. Eur J Biochem 225:617–623

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Boldyrev AA (2006) Carnosine and oxidative stress in cells and tissues. Nova Science Publishers, New York

  6. Buse MG, Weigand DA, Peeler D, Hedden MP (1980) The effect of diabetes and the redox potential on amino acid content and release by isolated rat hemidiaphragms. Metabolism 29:605–616

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Derave W, Everaert I, Beeckman S, Baguet A (2010) Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Med 40:247–263

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Harris RC, Tallon MJ, Dunnett M et al (2006) The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids 30:279–289

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Janssen B, Hohenadel D, Brinkkoetter P et al (2005) Carnosine as a protective factor in diabetic nephropathy: association with a leucine repeat of the carnosinase gene CNDP1. Diabetes 54:2320–2327

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Kim HJ (2009) Comparison of the carnosine and taurine contents of vastus lateralis of elderly Korean males, with impaired glucose tolerance, and young elite Korean swimmers. Amino Acids 36:359–363

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Lee YT, Hsu CC, Lin MH, Liu KS, Yin MC (2005) Histidine and carnosine delay diabetic deterioration in mice and protect human low density lipoprotein against oxidation and glycation. Eur J Pharmacol 513:145–150

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Mooyaart AL, Valk EJ, van Es LA et al (2010) Genetic associations in diabetic nephropathy: a meta-analysis. Diabetologia 54:544–553

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Oberbach A, Bossenz Y, Lehmann S et al (2006) Altered fiber distribution and fiber-specific glycolytic and oxidative enzyme activity in skeletal muscle of patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 29:895–900

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Pfister F, Riedl E, Wang Q et al (2011) Oral carnosine supplementation prevents vascular damage in experimental diabetic retinopathy. Cell Physiol Biochem 28:125–136

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Riedl E, Pfister F, Braunagel M et al (2011) Carnosine prevents apoptosis of glomerular cells and podocyte loss in STZ diabetic rats. Cell Physiol Biochem 28:279–288

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Sale C, Saunders B, Harris RC (2010) Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. Amino Acids 39:321–333

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Sauerhofer S, Yuan G, Braun GS et al (2007) L-carnosine, a substrate of carnosinase-1, influences glucose metabolism. Diabetes 56:2425–2432

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Stephens FB, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Laithwaite D, Simpson EJ, Greenhaff PL (2006) Insulin stimulates l-carnitine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. FASEB J 20:377–379

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Tallon MJ, Harris RC, Maffulli N, Tarnopolsky MA (2007) Carnosine, taurine and enzyme activities of human skeletal muscle fibres from elderly subjects with osteoarthritis and young moderately active subjects. Biogerontology 8:129–137

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was financially supported by grants from the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO and G.0046.09) and from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Grant numbers 2005/56464-9 and 2010/11221-0). The contribution of Johannes Ruige, Andries Pottier, Bert Celie, Melodie Arts, Koen De Meulenaer, Pieter Metsu, Vitor Painelli, and Rebeca Lugaresi is greatly acknowledged.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest associated with this manuscript.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bruno Gualano.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gualano, B., Everaert, I., Stegen, S. et al. Reduced muscle carnosine content in type 2, but not in type 1 diabetic patients. Amino Acids 43, 21–24 (2012).

Download citation


  • Skeletal muscle
  • Glycation
  • AGEs
  • Oxidative stress
  • Carbonyl stress
  • Carnosine
  • Beta-alanine
  • Diabetic complications
  • MRS