Uncoupling proteins: functional characteristics and role in the pathogenesis of obesity and Type II diabetes

Diabetologia. 2001 Aug;44(8):946-65. doi: 10.1007/s001250100596.


Uncoupling proteins are mitochondrial carrier proteins which are able to dissipate the proton gradient of the inner mitochondrial membrane. This uncoupling process reduces the amount of ATP generated through an oxidation of fuels. The hypothesis that uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are candidate genes for human obesity or Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus is based on the finding that a chemical uncoupling of the mitochondrial membrane reduces body adiposity, and that lower metabolic rates predict weight gain. It is straightforward to hypothesize that common polymorphisms of UCP1, UCP2 and UCP3 genes lower metabolic rate by a more efficient energy coupling in the mitochondria. Furthermore, genetically engineered mice over expressing different UCP homologues are lean and resistant to diet-induced obesity. The three uncoupling protein homologue genes UCP1, UCP2, and UCP3 have been investigated for polymorphisms and mutations and their impact on Type II diabetes mellitus, obesity, and body weight gain or BMI. The main conclusion is that variation in the UCP1, UCP2 or UCP3 genes is not associated with major alterations of body weight gain. The contribution of UCP genes towards polygenic obesity and Type II diabetes is evaluated and discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins*
  • Mutation
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Proteins
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • UCP2 protein, human
  • UCP3 protein, human
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Ucp2 protein, mouse
  • Ucp3 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3