Hsu J, Fatuzzo N, Weng N, Michno W, Dong W, Kienle M, Dai Y, Pasca A, Abu-Remaileh M, Rasgon N, Bigio B, Nasca C, Khosla C
J Biol Chem 299 (2) 102848 [2023-02-00; online 2022-12-30]
In eukaryotes, carnitine is best known for its ability to shuttle esterified fatty acids across mitochondrial membranes for β-oxidation. It also returns to the cytoplasm, in the form of acetyl-L-carnitine (LAC), some of the resulting acetyl groups for posttranslational protein modification and lipid biosynthesis. While dietary LAC supplementation has been clinically investigated, its effects on cellular metabolism are not well understood. To explain how exogenous LAC influences mammalian cell metabolism, we synthesized isotope-labeled forms of LAC and its analogs. In cultures of glucose-limited U87MG glioma cells, exogenous LAC contributed more robustly to intracellular acetyl-CoA pools than did β-hydroxybutyrate, the predominant circulating ketone body in mammals. The fact that most LAC-derived acetyl-CoA is cytosolic is evident from strong labeling of fatty acids in U87MG cells by exogenous 13C2-acetyl-L-carnitine. We found that the addition of d3-acetyl-L-carnitine increases the supply of acetyl-CoA for cytosolic posttranslational modifications due to its strong kinetic isotope effect on acetyl-CoA carboxylase, the first committed step in fatty acid biosynthesis. Surprisingly, whereas cytosolic carnitine acetyltransferase is believed to catalyze acetyl group transfer from LAC to coenzyme A, CRAT-/- U87MG cells were unimpaired in their ability to assimilate exogenous LAC into acetyl-CoA. We identified carnitine octanoyltransferase as the key enzyme in this process, implicating a role for peroxisomes in efficient LAC utilization. Our work has opened the door to further biochemical investigations of a new pathway for supplying acetyl-CoA to certain glucose-starved cells.