Mitochondrial proton cycling is responsible for a significant proportion of basal or standard metabolic rate, so further uncoupling of mitochondria may be a good way to increase energy expenditure and represents a good pharmacological target for the treatment of obesity. Uncoupling by 2,4-dinitrophenol has been used in this way in the past with notable success, and some of the effects of thyroid hormone treatment to induce weight loss may also be due to uncoupling. Diet can alter the pattern of phospholipid fatty acyl groups in the mitochondrial membrane, and this may be a route to uncoupling in vivo. Energy expenditure can be increased by stimulating the activity of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) in brown adipocytes either directly or through beta 3-adrenoceptor agonists. UCP2 in a number of tissues, UCP3 in skeletal muscle and the adenine nucleotide translocase have also been proposed as possible drug targets. Specific uncoupling of muscle or brown adipocyte mitochondria remains an attractive target for the development of antiobesity drugs.