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Mitochondrial very-long-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase (VLCAD) was purified from human liver. The molecular masses of the native enzyme and the subunit were estimated to be 154 and 70 kD, respectively. The enzyme was found to catalyze the major part of mitochondrial palmitoylcoenzyme A dehydrogenation in liver, heart, skeletal muscle, and skin fibroblasts (89-97, 86-99, 96-99, and 78-87%, respectively). Skin fibroblasts from 26 patients suspected of having a disorder of mitochondrial beta-oxidation were analyzed for VLCAD protein using immunoblotting, and 7 of them contained undetectable or trace levels of the enzyme. The seven deficient fibroblast lines were characterized by measuring acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenation activities, overall palmitic acid oxidation, and VLCAD protein synthesis using pulse-chase, further confirming the diagnosis of VLCAD deficiency. These results suggested the heterogenous nature of the mutations causing the deficiency in the seven patients. Clinically, all patients with VLCAD deficiency exhibited cardiac disease. At least four of them presented with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This frequency (> 57%) was much higher than that observed in patients with other disorders of mitochondrial long-chain fatty acid oxidation that may be accompanied by cardiac disease in infants.