Possible physiological roles of mitochondrial uncoupling proteins--UCPn

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2002 Oct;34(10):1190-206. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(02)00061-4.


Five mitochondrial uncoupling proteins exist in the human gemone: UCP2, expressed ubiquitously; UCP1, exclusively in brown adipose tissue (BAT); UCP3, predominantly in muscle; UCP4 and BMCP (UCP5), in brain. UCP4 is the ancestral prototype from which the other UCPn diverged. Findings on the level of organism and reconstituted recombinant proteins demonstrated that UCPn exhibit a protonophoric function, documented by overexpression in mice, L6 myotubes, INS1 cells, muscle, and yeast. In a few cases (yeast), this protonophoric function was correlated with elevated fatty acid (FA) levels. Reconstituted UCPn exhibited nucleotide-sensitive FA induced H(+) uniport. Two mechanisms, local buffering or FA cycling were suggested as an explanation. A basic UCPn role with mild uncoupling is to accelerate metabolism and reduce reactive oxygen species. UCP2 (UCP3) roles were inferred from transcriptional up-regulation mediated by FAs via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, cytokines, leptin signalling via hypothalamic pathway, and by thyroide and beta2 adrenergic stimulation. The latter indicated a role in catecholamine-induced thermogenesis in skeletal muscle. UCP2 (UCP3) may contribute to body weight regulation, although obesity was not induced in knockout (KO) mice. An obesity reduction in middle-aged humans was associated with the less common allele of -866 G/A polymorphism in the ucp2 gene promoter enhancing the exon 8 insertion: deletion transcript ratio. Up-regulated UCP2 transcription by pyrogenic cytokines (tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)) suggested a role in fever. UCP2 could induce type 2 diabetes as developed from obesity due to up-regulated UCP2 transcription by FAs in pancreatic beta-cells. UCPn might be pro-apoptotic as well as anti-apoptotic, depending on transcriptional and biochemical regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / classification
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / classification
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1