Research article

Structural model of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I based on the carnitine acetyltransferase crystal

Montserrat MORILLAS, Eduardo LÓPEZ-VIÑAS, Alfonso VALENCIA, Dolors SERRA, Paulino GÓMEZ-PUERTAS, Fausto G. HEGARDT, Guillermina ASINS


CPT I (carnitine palmitoyltransferase I) catalyses the conversion of palmitoyl-CoA into palmitoylcarnitine in the presence of l-carnitine, facilitating the entry of fatty acids into mitochondria. We propose a 3-D (three-dimensional) structural model for L-CPT I (liver CPT I), based on the similarity of this enzyme to the recently crystallized mouse carnitine acetyltransferase. The model includes 607 of the 773 amino acids of L-CPT I, and the positions of carnitine, CoA and the palmitoyl group were assigned by superposition and docking analysis. Functional analysis of this 3-D model included the mutagenesis of several amino acids in order to identify putative catalytic residues. Mutants D477A, D567A and E590D showed reduced L-CPT I activity. In addition, individual mutation of amino acids forming the conserved Ser685-Thr686-Ser687 motif abolished enzyme activity in mutants T686A and S687A and altered Km and the catalytic efficiency for carnitine in mutant S685A. We conclude that the catalytic residues are His473 and Asp477, while Ser687 probably stabilizes the transition state. Several conserved lysines, i.e. Lys455, Lys505, Lys560 and Lys561, were also mutated. Only mutants K455A and K560A showed decreases in activity of 50%. The model rationalizes the finding of nine natural mutations in patients with hereditary L-CPT I deficiencies.

  • carnitine acetyltransferase
  • carnitine palmitoyltransferase I
  • docking analysis
  • fatty acid β-oxidation
  • site-directed mutagenesis
  • three-dimensional structural model


  • Abbreviations used: CPT, carnitine palmitoyltransferase; 3-D, three-dimensional; L-CPT I, liver carnitine palmitoyltransferase I; M-CPT I, muscle carnitine palmitoyltransferase I; COT, carnitine octanoyltransferase; CRAT, carnitine acetyltransferase; RMSD, root-mean-square displacement.