Several age-related alterations occur at the cellular level in the immune system leading to a decrease in the immune response. The present study was designed to determine the effect of L-carnitine on impaired neutrophil functions of aged rats. For this reason, superoxide anion radical production, chemotaxis and phagocytic activity were studied in the neutrophils obtained from the peripheral blood of young and old rats. We orally gavaged L-carnitine (50 mg/kg b.w. per day) or control vehicle into young (2 months) and aged (24 months) rats for 30 consecutive days. The neutrophils of aged rats exhibited an increase in superoxide anion production and decline in phagocytosis and chemotaxis when compared with that in young rat neutrophils. Superoxide anion production in aged rats was significantly decreased by L-carnitine treatment which was accompanied with a significant enhancement of chemotactic and phagocytic activity being restored to control levels. These findings demonstrated that L-carnitine is capable of restoring the age-related changes of neutrophil functions. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.