Uncoupling proteins 1 and 2 (UCP1 and UCP2) from Arabidopsis thaliana are mitochondrial transporters of aspartate, glutamate, and dicarboxylates

J Biol Chem. 2018 Mar 16;293(11):4213-4227. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA117.000771. Epub 2018 Jan 25.


The Arabidopsis thaliana genome contains 58 members of the solute carrier family SLC25, also called the mitochondrial carrier family, many of which have been shown to transport specific metabolites, nucleotides, and cofactors across the mitochondrial membrane. Here, two Arabidopsis members of this family, AtUCP1 and AtUCP2, which were previously thought to be uncoupling proteins and hence named UCP1/PUMP1 and UCP2/PUMP2, respectively, are assigned with a novel function. They were expressed in bacteria, purified, and reconstituted in phospholipid vesicles. Their transport properties demonstrate that they transport amino acids (aspartate, glutamate, cysteine sulfinate, and cysteate), dicarboxylates (malate, oxaloacetate, and 2-oxoglutarate), phosphate, sulfate, and thiosulfate. Transport was saturable and inhibited by mercurials and other mitochondrial carrier inhibitors to various degrees. AtUCP1 and AtUCP2 catalyzed a fast counterexchange transport as well as a low uniport of substrates, with transport rates of AtUCP1 being much higher than those of AtUCP2 in both cases. The aspartate/glutamate heteroexchange mediated by AtUCP1 and AtUCP2 is electroneutral, in contrast to that mediated by the mammalian mitochondrial aspartate glutamate carrier. Furthermore, both carriers were found to be targeted to mitochondria. Metabolite profiling of single and double knockouts shows changes in organic acid and amino acid levels. Notably, AtUCP1 and AtUCP2 are the first reported mitochondrial carriers in Arabidopsis to transport aspartate and glutamate. It is proposed that the primary function of AtUCP1 and AtUCP2 is to catalyze an aspartateout/glutamatein exchange across the mitochondrial membrane and thereby contribute to the export of reducing equivalents from the mitochondria in photorespiration.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; UCP; gene knockout; liposome; membrane transport; mitochondrial carrier; mitochondrial transport; recombinant protein expression; subcellular localization; uncoupling protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism*
  • Dicarboxylic Acids / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Metabolome
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Uncoupling Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Uncoupling Proteins / metabolism*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / genetics
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Dicarboxylic Acids
  • Mitochondrial Uncoupling Proteins
  • PUMP2 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid