Altered Carnitine Homeostasis in Children With Increased Pulmonary Blood Flow Due to Ventricular Septal Defects

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Abstract

Objectives:

Congenital heart disease with increased pulmonary blood flow results in progressive pulmonary vascular endothelial dysfunction and associated increased perioperative morbidity. Using our ovine model of congenital heart disease with increased pulmonary blood flow, we have previously demonstrated progressive endothelial dysfunction associated with disruption in carnitine homeostasis, mitochondrial dysfunction, decreased nitric oxide signaling, and enhanced reactive oxygen species generation. However, potential alterations in these parameters in patients with congenital heart disease have not been investigated. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that children with increased pulmonary blood flow will have evidence of altered carnitine homeostasis, mitochondrial dysfunction, decreased nitric oxide levels, and increased reactive oxygen species generation.

Design:

A prospective single-center cohort study.

Setting:

A tertiary care cardiac ICU/PICU.

Patients:

Arterial blood samples from 18 patients with congenital heart disease associated with increased pulmonary blood flow (ventricular septal defect), 20 with congenital heart disease without increased pulmonary blood flow (tetralogy of Fallot), and 10 without heart disease (controls) were obtained.

Interventions:

Plasma levels of total carnitine, free carnitine, acylcarnitine, and lactate-to-pyruvate ratios, an indicator of mitochondrial function, were determined and compared. In addition, levels of superoxide and hydrogen peroxide were determined and compared in patients with ventricular septal defect and controls. Statistical analysis was performed using an unpaired t test and analysis of variance.

Measurements and Main Results:

Baseline acylcarnitine levels (25.7 ± 13 vs 12.7 ± 8.3; p < 0.05), the acylcarnitine-to-free carnitine ratio (0.8 ± 0.1 vs 0.3 ± 0.05; p < 0.05), and the lactate-to-pyruvate ratio were higher in ventricular septal defect (27.5 ± 3.8 vs 11.1 ± 4.1, p < 0.05) than tetralogy of Fallot; there were no differences between tetralogy of Fallot and control. Superoxide and H2O2 levels were also higher in ventricular septal defect compared with controls, and NOx levels were lower in ventricular septal defect patients compared with tetralogy of Fallot and controls (p < 0.05).

Conclusions:

These data suggest that increased pulmonary blood flow from ventricular septal defect results in altered carnitine and mitochondrial homeostasis, decreased nitric oxide signaling, and increased reactive oxygen species production. These data are consistent with our animal data demonstrating that altered carnitine homeostasis results in mitochondrial dysfunction, increased reactive oxygen species production, and decreased bioavailable nitric oxide. Since disruption of carnitine metabolism may contribute to endothelial dysfunction, carnitine supplementation may attenuate endothelial dysfunction associated with increased pulmonary blood flow and warrants further investigation.

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