Diagnostic protocols for disorders of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (FAO) generally include the measurement of plasma acylcarnitines. Many biochemical intermediates of FAO resulting from a metabolic block require carnitine conjugation for transport out of the mitochondria, and so occur as fatty acid-carnitine conjugates in the blood. Both short- and long-chain acylcarnitines are generally determined, and this procedure has a critical role to play in the diagnosis of disorders of the very long-chain, medium-chain and short-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase defects. Less is known about the utility of acylcarnitines for the measurement of the various chain length intermediates of the 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase steps of β-oxidation. This study utilizes stable-isotope dilution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to determine the serum or plasma concentrations of free 3-hydroxy fatty acids (3-OHFAs) of chain lengths C6 to C16. The 3-OHFA concentrations are determined in samples from normal individuals, hyperketotic individuals and patients with long-chain L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase and short-chain L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiencies, both before and after hydrolysis. The results of the study indicate the relative amounts of conjugated intermediates of all chain lengths. Long-chain 3-OHFAs (C14 and C16) are found in elevated concentrations after hydrolysis, whereas short-chain and medium-chain 3-OHFAs (C6 to C12) show no difference in concentrations between the two samples in all subjects tested, suggesting that only long-chain 3-hydroxy species form conjugates. This finding has important implications for the use of the acylcarnitine assay for the diagnosis of defects involving short-chain and medium-chain 3-hydroxy fatty acids.
ASJC Scopus subject areas