Acylcarnitines play an essential role in regulating the balance of intracellular sugar and lipid metabolism. They serve as carriers to transport activated long-chain fatty acids into mitochondria for β-oxidation as a major source of energy for cell activities. The liver is the most important organ for endogenous carnitine synthesis and metabolism. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a primary malignancy of the live with poor prognosis, may strongly influence the level of acylcarnitines. In this paper, the function, detection and alteration of acylcarnitine metabolism in HCC were briefly reviewed. An overview was provided to introduce the metabolic roles of acylcarnitines involved in fatty acid β-oxidation. Then different analytical platforms and methodologies were also briefly summarised. The relationship between HCC and acylcarnitine metabolism was described. Many of the studies reported that short, medium and long-chain acylcarnitines were altered in HCC patients. These findings presented current evidence in support of acylcarnitines as new candidate biomarkers for studies on the pathogenesis and development of HCC. Finally we discussed the challenges and perspectives of exploiting acylcarnitine metabolism and its related metabolic pathways as a target for HCC diagnosis and prognosis.
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