Introduction Carnitine a Brief History

The word carnitine is derived from the Latin word carno or carnis, which means flesh or meat. Carnitine was discovered in muscle extracts by Gulewitsch and Krimberg1 as well as Kutscher2 in 1905 and was first thought to be involved with muscle function. Gulewitsch and Krimberg1 identified the structure of carnitine as 3-hydroxy-4-N-trimethyl-aminobutyric acid (C7H15NO3), which was later confirmed in 1927 by Tomita and Sendju.3 Following its discovery, its exact configuration was


FIGURE 11.1 L-carnitine's chemical structure.

proposed in 19624 and became definite in 1997 as L- or R-3-hydroxy-4-N,N,N-trimethylaminobutyrate.5 Initially carnitine was called vitamin BT because of its necessity for growth in the yellow mealworm known as Tenebrio molitor. Subsequently, the distribution of carnitine in the organs of mammals, lower animals, plants, and microorganisms became well established6 (Figure 11.1).

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