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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2002 February;93(1):41-58


language: English

Mitochondrial uncoupling proteins in human physiology and disease

Hagen T., Vidal-Puig A.


Uncoupling proteins are mitochondrial carrier proteins that catalyse a regulated proton leak across the inner mitochondrial membrane, diverting free energy from ATP synthesis by the mitochondrial F0F1-ATP synthase to the production of heat. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which is exclusively expressed in brown adipose tissue, is the mediator of thermogenesis in response to b-adrenergic stimulation. Using gene a knockout mouse model, UCP1 has been shown to be required for cold acclimation. Two homologues of UCP1, UCP2 and UCP3, have been identified recently and show a much wider tissue distribution. UCP2 and UCP3 have been postulated to play a role in the regulation of cold acclimation, energy expenditure and diet-induced thermogenesis in humans, who, in contrast to rodents, have very little brown fat in adult life. However, evidence is accumulating that thermogenesis and regulation of body weight may not be the physiological functions of UCP2 and UCP3. For instance, mice deficient for UCP2 or UCP3 are not cold-intolerant and do not develop obesity. Alternative functions were suggested, primarily based on findings in UCP2 and UCP3 gene knockout mice. Both UCP2- and UCP3-deficient mice were found to overproduce reactive oxygen species and UCP2-deficient mice to hypersecrete insulin. Thus, the UCP1 homologues may play a role in regulating mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and b-cell function. In this review, we discuss the role of UCP1, UCP2 and UCP3 in human physiology and disease, primarily based on findings from the various animal models that have been generated.

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