UCP2, not a physiologically relevant uncoupler but a glucose sparing switch impacting ROS production and glucose sensing

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 May;1787(5):377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Jan 20.


In mammals the two proteins UCP2 and UCP3 are highly similar to the mitochondrial uncoupling protein found in the brown adipose tissue (UCP1). Accordingly, it was proposed that UCP2 and UCP3 are also uncoupling proteins i.e. protonophores with impact on mitochondrial ROS production and glucose signaling. However, it appears now impossible to explain the physiological relevance of the new UCPs uniquely by their uncoupling activity as observed in vitro. Therefore, we propose a metabolic hypothesis in which UCP2 acts through a transport distinct of the proton transport. A consequence of this transport activity would be a decrease of the mitochondrial oxidation of the pyruvate originating from glucose. This would put UCP2 and UCP3 in a crucial position to influence cellular metabolism. The tight control exerted on UCP2 expression appears consistent with it. In this hypothesis, UCP2/3 would allow a cell to remain glycolytic within an aerobic organism. This tallies with the high expression level of UCP2 or UCP3 in glycolytic cells. The metabolic hypothesis would explain the spectacular modifications associated with UCP2 manipulation as well as the uncoupling activity usually called for and which in fact remains elusive in vivo.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Aerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Mammals
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3
  • Yeasts / metabolism


  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • UCP2 protein, human
  • UCP3 protein, human
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Uncoupling Protein 2
  • Uncoupling Protein 3
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose