Uncoupling proteins, dietary fat and the metabolic syndrome

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006 Sep 12;3:38. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-3-38.


There has been intense interest in defining the functions of UCP2 and UCP3 during the nine years since the cloning of these UCP1 homologues. Current data suggest that both UCP2 and UCP3 proteins share some features with UCP1, such as the ability to reduce mitochondrial membrane potential, but they also have distinctly different physiological roles. Human genetic studies consistently demonstrate the effect of UCP2 alleles on type-2 diabetes. Less clear is whether UCP2 alleles influence body weight or body mass index (BMI) with many studies showing a positive effect while others do not. There is strong evidence that both UCP2 and UCP3 protect against mitochondrial oxidative damage by reducing the production of reactive oxygen species. The evidence that UCP2 protein is a negative regulator of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta-cells is also strong: increased UCP2 decreases glucose stimulated insulin secretion ultimately leading to beta-cell dysfunction. UCP2 is also neuroprotective, reducing oxidative stress in neurons. UCP3 may also transport fatty acids out of mitochondria thereby protecting the mitochondria from fatty acid anions or peroxides. Current data suggest that UCP2 plays a role in the metabolic syndrome through down-regulation of insulin secretion and development of type-2 diabetes. However, UCP2 may protect against atherosclerosis through reduction of oxidative stress and both UCP2 and UCP3 may protect against obesity. Thus, these UCP1 homologues may both contribute to and protect from the markers of the metabolic syndrome.