Neurochemical Research

, Volume 38, Issue 11, pp 2336–2341 | Cite as

l-Carnitine Exposure and Mitochondrial Function in Human Neuronal Cells

  • David A. Geier
  • Mark R. Geier
Original Paper


l-Carnitine is a naturally occurring substance required in mammalian energy metabolism that functions by facilitating long-chain fatty acid entry into cellular mitochondria, thereby delivering substrate for oxidation and subsequent energy production. It has been purposed that l-carnitine may improve and preserve cognitive performance, and may lead to better cognitive aging through the life span, and several controlled human clinical trials with l-carnitine support the hypothesis that this substance has the ability to improve cognitive function. We further hypothesized that, since l-carnitine is an important co-factor of mammalian mitochondrial energy metabolism, acute administration of l-carnitine to human tissue culture cells should result in detectable increases in mitochondrial function. Cultures of SH-SY-5Y human neuroblastoma and 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells grown in 96-well cell culture plates were acutely administered l-carnitine hydrochloride, and then, mitochondrial function was assayed using the colorimetric 2,3-bis[2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl]-2H-tetrazolium-5-carboxyanilide inner salt cell assay kit in a VERSAmax tunable microplate reader. Significant increases in mitochondrial function were observed when human neuroblastoma or human astrocytoma cells were exposed to 100 nM (20 μg l-carnitine hydrochloride/L) to 100 μM (20 mg l-carnitine hydrochloride/L) concentrations of l-carnitine hydrochloride in comparison to unexposed cells, whereas no significant positive effects were observed at lower or higher concentrations of l-carnitine hydrochloride. The results of the present study provide insights for how l-carnitine therapy may significantly improve human neuronal function, but we recommend that future studies further explore different derivatives of l-carnitine compounds in different in vitro cell-based systems using different markers of mitochondrial function.


Carnitine Cell vitality Mitochondria Neuron 



This study was funded by the non-profit CoMeD, Inc., and by the non-profit Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc.Silver SpringUSA
  2. 2.CoMeD, Inc.Silver SpringUSA

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