Objectives: The molecular determinants of energy expenditure are presently unknown. Recently, two uncoupling protein homologues, UCP2 and UCP3, have been identified. UCP2 is expressed widely, and UCP3 is expressed abundantly in skeletal muscle. Both could be important regulators of energy balance. In this paper, we investigated whether altered UCP2 and UCP3 mRNA levels are associated with obesity or weight reduction.
Research methods and procedures: UCP2, UCP3 long and short mRNA levels were examined in skeletal muscle and in white adipose tissue of lean, obese, and weight-reduced individuals by RNase protection assay.
Results: Expression of UCP2, UCP3S, and UCP3L mRNA in skeletal muscle was similar in lean individuals and in individuals with obesity at stable weight. In contrast, UCP3L and UCP3S mRNAs were decreased by 38% (p<0.0059) and 48% (p<0.0047), respectively, in 20% weight-reduced patients with obesity at stable weight. In contrast, UCP2 mRNA levels were increased by 30% in skeletal muscle of 20% weight-reduced subjects with obesity. In a different set of patients, mostly lean, UCP3L mRNA in skeletal muscle was decreased by 28% (p = 0.0425) after 10% weight reduction at stable weight. Expression of UCP2 mRNA in subcutaneous adipose tissue was similar in lean individuals and in individuals with obesity, and was increased by 58% during active weight loss.
Discussion: Stabilization at reduced body weight in humans is associated with a decrease in UCP3 mRNA in muscle. It is possible that reduced UCP3 expression could contribute to decreased energy expenditure in weight-stable, weight-reduced individuals.