Chick embryo heart cells in tissue culture actively oxidize [1-14C]palmitate to 14CO2. Fatty acid oxidation by cell monolayers was linear with time and increasing protein concentration. The addition of carnitine to the assay medium resulted in a 30–70% increase in the rate of fatty acid oxidation. The specific activity of palmitic acid oxidation did not change significantly with time in culture and was also the same in rapidly proliferating and density-inhibited cell cultures. Addition of unlabeled glucose to the assay medium resulted in a 50% decrease in 14CO2 production from [1-14C]palmitate. Conversely, palmitate had a similar sparing effect on [14C]glucose oxidation to 14CO2. Lactate production accounted for most of the glucose depleted from the medium and was not inhibited by the presence of palmitate in the assay. Thus, the sparing action of the fatty acids on glucose oxidation appears to be at the mitochondrial level. The results indicate that although chick heart cells in culture are primarily anaerobic, they can oxidize fatty acid actively.

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