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Verhoeven NM. Roe DS. Kok RM. Wanders RJ. Jakobs C. Roe CR.
Department of Clinical Chemistry, Free University Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The relationship between peroxisomal and mitochondrial oxidation of the methyl branched fatty acids, phytanic acid and pristanic acid, was studied in normal and mutant human skin fibroblasts with established enzyme deficiencies. Tandem mass spectrometry was used for analysis of the acylcarnitine intermediates. In normal cells, 4,8-dimethylnonanoylcarnitine (C11:0) and 2,6-dimethylheptanoylcarnitine (C9:0) accumulated after incubation with either phytanic acid or pristanic acid. These intermediates were not observed when peroxisome-deficient cells from Zellweger patients were incubated with the same compounds, pointing to the involvement of peroxisomes in the formation of these acylcarnitine intermediates. Similar experiments with fibroblasts deficient in carnitine palmitoyltransferase I, carnitine-acylcarnitine translocase or carnitine palmitoyltransferase II revealed that mitochondrial carnitine palmitoyltransferase I is not required for the oxidation of phytanic acid or pristanic acid, whereas both carnitine-acylcarnitine translocase and carnitine palmitoyltransferase II are necessary. These studies demonstrate that both phytanic acid and pristanic acid are initially oxidized in peroxisomes to 4,8-dimethylnonanoyl-CoA, which is converted to the corresponding acylcarnitine (presumably by peroxisomal carnitine octanoyltransferase), and exported to the mitochondrion. After transport across the mitochondrial membrane and transfer of the acylgroup to coenzyme A, further oxidation to 2,6-dimethylheptanoyl-CoA occurs.