Free fatty acid metabolism during myocardial ischemia and reperfusion

Steven C. Hendrickson, James D. St Louis, James E. Lowe, Salah Abdel-aleem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Long chain free fatty acids (FFA) are the preferred metabolic substrates of myocardium under aerobic conditions. However, under ischemic conditions long chain FFA have been shown to be harmful both clinically and experimentally. Serum levels of free fatty acids frequently are elevated in patients with myocardial ischemia. The proposed mechanisms of the detrimental effects of free fatty acids include: (1) accumulation of toxic intermediates of fatty acid metabolism, such as long chain acyl-CoA thioesters and long chain acylcarnitines, (2) inhibition of glucose utilization, particularly glycolysis, during ischemia and/or reperfusion, and (3) uncoupling of oxidative metabolism from electron transfer. The relative importance of these mechanisms remains controversial. The primary site of FFA-induced injury appears to be the sarcolemmal and intracellular membranes and their associated enzymes. Inhibitors of free fatty acid metabolism have been shown experimentally to decrease the size of myocardial infarction and lessen postischemic cardiac dysfunction in animal models of regional and global ischemia. The mechanism by which FFA inhibitors improve cardiac function in the postischemic heart is controversial. Whether the effects are dependent on decreased levels of long chain intermediates and/or enhancement of glucose utilization is under investigation. Manipulation of myocardial fatty acid metabolism may prove beneficial in the treatment of myocardial ischemia, particularly during situations of controlled ischemia and reperfusion, such as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Myocardial ischemia
  • Myocardial metabolism
  • Nonesterified fatty acids
  • Reperfusion injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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