Diabetes, starvation and various hormonal treatments are known to alter drastically carnitine concentrations in the body. Before the mechanisms controlling carnitine metabolism could be determined, it was necessary to establish normal carnitine concentrations in both sexes at different ages. Carnitine was assayed in plasma, liver, heart and skeletal muscle of rats from birth to weaning. The plasma carnitine increased rapidly during the first 2 days after birth. Carnitine in both heart and skeletal muscle increased, whereas liver concentrations declined during the first week of life. A carnitine-free diet containing sufficient precursors for carnitine biosynthesis was fed to weanling rats. Groups of ten male and ten female rats were killed each week for 10 consecutive weeks. Carnitine was determined in plasma, liver, heart, skeletal muscle, urine and epididymis in the male. There was no difference in carnitine concentrations between the sexes at weaning. Plasma, heart and muscle concentrations were higher in adult male rats than in adult females. However, liver carnitine and urinary carnitine concentrations were higher in adult female than in adult male rats. The epididymal carnitine concentration increased very rapidly during 50 to 70 days of age and the differences in carnitine concentrations between the sexes also became apparent during this time. Thus both the age and the sex of the human subject or experimental animal must be considered when investigating carnitine metabolism.

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