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1.  Negative regulation of UCP2 by TGFβ signaling characterizes low and intermediate-grade primary breast cancer 
Cell Death & Disease  2010;1(7):e53-.
The histological manifestation of growth-regulating and differentiation-inducing signals in cancer cells is considered as a key component for clinical outcome prediction and commonly defined as tumor differentiation grade. However, the molecular and functional framework underlying this clinical parameter remains poorly understood. Our correlative data display a significant association (P>0.001) between mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) and tumor grade in primary breast cancer (n=234). Through mechanistic analyses, we show a synergistic link between UCP2 and established cellular pathways in conferring grade-associated functional phenotypes. Here, the application of well to moderately differentiated primary tumor cell lines has enabled direct observation of SMAD recruitment to the UCP2 promoter underlying repression of gene transcription. In contrast, poorly differentiated tumor cells, known to be TGFβ resistant, displayed aberrant UCP2 regulation, and consequently, gene overexpression, which reduced mitochondrial calcium and facilitated the maintenance of mitochondrial membrane potential, thereby significantly decreasing oxidative stress and inhibiting cell death. Conversely, UCP2 silencing in such cells rapidly led to the induction of apoptosis and cell differentiation, concurrent with reduced cell survival and proliferation, confirming gene-specific effects. Demonstration of a biologically driven role for UCP2 dysregulation in promoting multiple characteristics of tumor aggressiveness strongly endorses assessment of gene expression at clinical presentation to augment therapeutic decision-making and improve patient outcome through personalized targeting approaches.
PMCID: PMC3032562  PMID: 21364658
cancer aggressiveness; differentiation status; mitochondrial changes; apoptosis; proliferation
2.  The RNA binding protein hnRNP-K mediates post-transcriptional regulation of uncoupling protein-2 by angiopoietin-1 
Cellular Signalling  2014;26(7):1379-1384.
Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) is a ligand for the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 and has key roles in the development of the vascular system and vascular protection. In a screen to define signalling pathways regulated by Ang1 in endothelial cells we found the RNA-binding protein hnRNP-K to be phosphorylated in response to Ang1. The ligand stimulated both tyrosine phosphorylation of hnRNP-K and recruitment of the tyrosine kinase Src to the RNA-binding protein. In endothelial cells hnRNP-K was found bound to mRNA encoding the mitochondrial protein uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2). Ang1 stimulation of cells resulted in the release of UCP2 mRNA from hnRNP-K. Using in vitro assays we confirmed direct binding between hnRNP-K and UCP2 mRNA. Furthermore Src induced phosphorylation of purified hnRNP-K and prevented UCP2 mRNA binding. Tyrosine 458 in the RNA-binding protein was found to be required for suppression of UCP2 mRNA binding by Src phosphorylation. In addition to releasing UCP2 mRNA from hnRNP-K, Ang1 induced an increase in UCP2 protein expression in endothelial cells without affecting total UCP2 mRNA levels. Consistent with the known effects of UCP2 to suppress generation of reactive oxygen species, Ang1 limited ROS production in endothelium stimulated with tumour necrosis factor-α. Taken together these data suggest that UCP2 mRNA is present in endothelial cells bound to hnRNP-K, which holds it in a translationally inactive state, and that Ang1 stimulates Src interaction with hnRNP-K, phosphorylation of the RNA-binding protein, release of these transcripts and upregulation of UCP2 protein expression. This study demonstrates a new mechanism for post-transcriptional regulation of UCP2 by the vascular protective ligand Ang1. The ability to rapidly upregulate UCP2 protein expression may be important in protecting endothelial cells from excessive generation of potentially damaging reactive oxygen species.
•In endothelial cells UCP2 mRNA is bound to hnRNP-K.•hnRNP-K suppresses UCP2 mRNA translation.•Ang1 stimulates recruitment of Src, phosphorylation of hnRNP-K and mRNA release.•Src phosphorylation of tyrosine-458 in hnRNP-K suppresses UCP2 mRNA binding.•Ang1 increases UCP2 protein levels.
PMCID: PMC4039131  PMID: 24642125
Endothelial; Angiopoietin; hnRNP-K; Uncoupling protein-2; Reactive oxygen species
3.  New Aspects of Mitochondrial Uncoupling Proteins (UCPs) and Their Roles in Tumorigenesis 
Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) belong to a family of mitochondrial carrier proteins that are present in the mitochondrial inner membrane. UCP1 was first identified followed by its two homologs, UCP2 and UCP3. The physiological functions of UCP include lowering mitochondrial membrane potential and dissipating metabolic energy as heat. However, UCP can be dysregulated and may contribute to the pathogenesis of metabolic disorders and obesity. Recent studies suggest that UCP also plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases and atherosclerosis. In addition, the widely expressed UCP, UCP2, has been shown to be upregulated in a number of aggressive human cancers. One mechanism of UCP2 upregulation in these cancers is due to oxidative stress, and elevated UCP2 in turn reduces oxidative stress, which provides a growth advantage for these cancers. Nevertheless, new studies suggest UCP2 may interact with oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, providing a potential new mechanism of how UCP2 contributes to cancer development. In this review, the evidence supporting the role of UCPs in diseases other than diabetes and obesity, the reports on how UCP is regulated in cancer cells, and how UCP may regulate p53 will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC3179165  PMID: 21954358
mitochondrial uncoupling; UCP2; cancer; UCP2 regulation
4.  Genipin-Induced Inhibition of Uncoupling Protein-2 Sensitizes Drug-Resistant Cancer Cells to Cytotoxic Agents 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13289.
Uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2) is known to suppress mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and is employed by drug-resistant cancer cells to mitigate oxidative stress. Using the drug-sensitive HL-60 cells and the drug-resistant MX2 subline as model systems, we show that genipin, a UCP2 inhibitor, sensitizes drug-resistant cells to cytotoxic agents. Increased MX2 cell death was observed upon co-treatment with genipin and different doses of menadione, doxorubicin, and epirubicin. DCFH-DA fluorimetry revealed that the increase in MX2 cell death was accompanied by enhanced cellular ROS levels. The drug-induced increase in ROS was linked to genipin-mediated inhibition of mitochondrial proton leak. State 4 and resting cellular respiratory rates were higher in the MX2 cells in comparison to the HL-60 cells, and the increased respiration was readily suppressed by genipin in the MX2 cells. UCP2 accounted for a remarkable 37% of the resting cellular oxygen consumption indicating that the MX2 cells are functionally reliant on this protein. Higher amounts of UCP2 protein were detected in the MX2 versus the HL-60 mitochondria. The observed effects of genipin were absent in the HL-60 cells pointing to the selectivity of this natural product for drug-resistant cells. The specificity of genipin for UCP2 was confirmed using CHO cells stably expressing UCP2 in which genipin induced an ∼22% decrease in state 4 respiration. These effects were absent in empty vector CHO cells expressing no UCP2. Thus, the chemical inhibition of UCP2 with genipin sensitizes multidrug-resistant cancer cells to cytotoxic agents.
PMCID: PMC2953501  PMID: 20967268
5.  Mitochondrial dysfunction in breast cancer cells prevents tumor growth 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(1):172-182.
Metformin is a well-established diabetes drug that prevents the onset of most types of human cancers in diabetic patients, especially by targeting cancer stem cells. Metformin exerts its protective effects by functioning as a weak “mitochondrial poison,” as it acts as a complex I inhibitor and prevents oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS). Thus, mitochondrial metabolism must play an essential role in promoting tumor growth. To determine the functional role of “mitochondrial health” in breast cancer pathogenesis, here we used mitochondrial uncoupling proteins (UCPs) to genetically induce mitochondrial dysfunction in either human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) or cancer-associated fibroblasts (hTERT-BJ1 cells). Our results directly show that all three UCP family members (UCP-1/2/3) induce autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction in human breast cancer cells, which results in significant reductions in tumor growth. Conversely, induction of mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer-associated fibroblasts has just the opposite effect. More specifically, overexpression of UCP-1 in stromal fibroblasts increases β-oxidation, ketone body production and the release of ATP-rich vesicles, which “fuels” tumor growth by providing high-energy nutrients in a paracrine fashion to epithelial cancer cells. Hence, the effects of mitochondrial dysfunction are truly compartment-specific. Thus, we conclude that the beneficial anticancer effects of mitochondrial inhibitors (such as metformin) may be attributed to the induction of mitochondrial dysfunction in the epithelial cancer cell compartment. Our studies identify cancer cell mitochondria as a clear target for drug discovery and for novel therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3570509  PMID: 23257779
chemoprevention; Metformin; mitochondrial dysfunction; breast cancer; tumor growth; UCP; mitochondrial uncoupling proteins; autophagy; ketone body production; fatty acid beta-oxidation; ATP-rich vesicles
6.  Role of Ucp1 enhancer methylation and chromatin remodelling in the control of Ucp1 expression in murine adipose tissue 
Diabetologia  2010;53(6):1164-1173.
Increasing the expression of the brown adipose tissue-specific gene uncoupling protein-1 (Ucp1) is a potential target for treating obesity. We investigated the role of DNA methylation and histone modification in Ucp1 expression in adipose cell lines and ex vivo murine adipose tissues.
Methylation state of the Ucp1 enhancer was studied using bisulphite mapping in murine adipose cell lines, and tissue taken from cold-stressed mice, coupled with functional assays of the effects of methylation and demethylation of the Ucp1 promoter on gene expression and nuclear protein binding.
We show that demethylation of the Ucp1 promoter by 5-aza-deoxycytidine increases Ucp1 expression while methylation of Ucp1 promoter–reporter constructs decreases expression. Brown adipose tissue-specific Ucp1 expression is associated with decreased CpG dinucleotide methylation of the Ucp1 enhancer. The lowest CpG dinucleotide methylation state was found in two cyclic AMP response elements (CRE3, CRE2) in the Ucp1 promoter and methylation of the CpG in CRE2, but not CRE3 decreased nuclear protein binding. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed the presence of the silencing DiMethH3K9 modification on the Ucp1 enhancer in white adipose tissue and the appearance of the active TriMethH3K4 mark at the Ucp1 promoter in brown adipose tissue in response to a cold environment.
The results demonstrate that CpG dinucleotide methylation of the Ucp1 enhancer exhibits tissue-specific patterns in murine tissue and cell lines and suggest that adipose tissue-specific Ucp1 expression involves demethylation of CpG dinucleotides found in regulatory CREs in the Ucp1 enhancer, as well as modification of histone tails.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-010-1701-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
PMCID: PMC2860566  PMID: 20238096
CpG dinucleotide; Methylation; Cyclic AMP response element; Uncoupling protein-1; Adipose tissue
7.  UCP-2 and UCP-3 Proteins Are Differentially Regulated in Pancreatic Beta-Cells 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(1):e1397.
Increased uncoupling protein-2 (UCP-2) expression has been associated with impaired insulin secretion, whereas UCP-3 protein levels are decreased in the skeleton muscle of type-2 diabetic subjects. In the present studies we hypothesize an opposing effect of glucose on the regulation of UCP-2 and UCP-3 in pancreatic islets.
Dominant negative UCP-2 and wild type UCP-3 adenoviruses were generated, and insulin release by transduced human islets was measured. UCP-2 and UCP-3 mRNA levels were determined using quantitative PCR. UCP-2 and UCP-3 protein expression was investigated in human islets cultured in the presence of different glucose concentrations. Human pancreatic sections were analyzed for subcellular localization of UCP-3 using immunohistochemistry.
Principal Findings
Dominant negative UCP-2 expression in human islets increased insulin secretion compared to control islets (p<0.05). UCP-3 mRNA is expressed in human islets, but the relative abundance of UCP-2 mRNA was 8.1-fold higher (p<0.05). Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed co-localization of UCP-3 protein with mitochondria in human beta-cells. UCP-2 protein expression in human islets was increased ∼2-fold after high glucose exposure, whereas UCP-3 protein expression was decreased by ∼40% (p<0.05). UCP-3 overexpression improved glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.
UCP-2 and UCP-3 may have distinct roles in regulating beta-cell function. Increased expression of UCP-2 and decreased expression of UCP-3 in humans with chronic hyperglycemia may contribute to impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. These data imply that mechanisms that suppress UCP-2 or mechanisms that increase UCP-3 expression and/or function are potential therapeutic targets to offset defects of insulin secretion in humans with type-2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2164968  PMID: 18167556
8.  A microRNA-30e/mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 axis mediates TGF-β1-induced tubular epithelial cell extracellular matrix production and kidney fibrosis 
Kidney International  2013;84(2):285-296.
Mitochondria dysfunction has been reported in various kidney diseases but how it leads to kidney fibrosis and how this is regulated is unknown. Here we found that mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) was induced in kidney tubular epithelial cells after unilateral ureteral obstruction in mice and that mice with ablated UCP2 resisted obstruction-induced kidney fibrosis. We tested this association further in cultured NRK-52E cells and found that TGF-β1 remarkably induced UCP2 expression. Knockdown of UCP2 largely abolished the effect of TGF-β1, whereas overexpression of UCP2 promoted tubular cell phenotype changes. Analysis using a UCP2 mRNA-3′-untranslated region luciferase construct showed that UCP2 mRNA is a direct target of miR-30e. MiR-30e was downregulated in tubular cells from fibrotic kidneys and TGF-β1-treated NRK-52E cells. A miR-30e mimic significantly inhibited TGF-β1-induced tubular-cell epithelial–mesenchymal transition, whereas a miR-30e inhibitor imitated TGF-β1 effects. Finally, genipin, an aglycone UCP2 inhibitor, significantly ameliorated kidney fibrosis in mice. Thus, the miR-30e/UCP2 axis has an important role in mediating TGF-β1-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition and kidney fibrosis. Targeting this pathway may shed new light for the future of fibrotic kidney disease therapy.
PMCID: PMC3731557  PMID: 23515048
microRNA; mitochondria; renal fibrosis; tubular epithelial cell; UCP2
9.  Uncoupling Protein 2 and 4 Expression Pattern during Stem Cell Differentiation Provides New Insight into Their Putative Function 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88474.
Apart from the first family member, uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), the functions of other UCPs (UCP2-UCP5) are still unknown. In analyzing our own results and those previously published by others, we have assumed that UCP's cellular expression pattern coincides with a specific cell metabolism and changes if the latter is altered. To verify this hypothesis, we analyzed the expression of UCP1-5 in mouse embryonic stem cells before and after their differentiation to neurons. We have shown that only UCP2 is present in undifferentiated stem cells and it disappears simultaneously with the initiation of neuronal differentiation. In contrast, UCP4 is simultaneously up-regulated together with typical neuronal marker proteins TUJ-1 and NeuN during mESC differentiation in vitro as well as during murine brain development in vivo. Notably, several tested cell lines express UCP2, but not UCP4. In line with this finding, neuroblastoma cells that display metabolic features of tumor cells express UCP2, but not UCP4. UCP2's occurrence in cancer, immunological and stem cells indicates that UCP2 is present in cells with highly proliferative potential, which have a glycolytic type of metabolism as a common feature, whereas UCP4 is strongly associated with non-proliferative highly differentiated neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3921169  PMID: 24523901
10.  Rapid turnover of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 
The Biochemical journal  2010;426(1):13-17.
UCP3 (uncoupling protein 3) and its homologues UCP2 and UCP1 are regulators of mitochondrial function. UCP2 is known to have a short half-life of approx. 1 h, owing to its rapid degradation by the cytosolic 26S proteasome, whereas UCP1 is turned over much more slowly by mitochondrial autophagy. In the present study we investigate whether UCP3 also has a short half-life, and whether the proteasome is involved inUCP3 degradation. UCP3 half-life was examined in the mouse C2C12 myoblast cell line by inhibiting protein synthesis with cycloheximide and monitoring UCP3 protein levels by immunoblot analysis. We show that UCP3 has a short half-life of 0.5–4 h. Rapid degradation was prevented by a cocktail of proteasome inhibitors, supporting a proteasomal mechanism for turnover. In addition, this phenotype is recapitulated in vitro: UCP3 was degraded in mitochondria isolated from rat skeletal muscle or brown adipose tissue with a half-life of 0.5–4 h, but only in the presence of a purified 26S proteasomal fraction. This in vitro proteolysis was also sensitive to proteasome inhibition. This phenotype is in direct contrast with the related proteins UCP1 and the adenine nucleotide translocase, which have long half-lives. Therefore UCP3 is turned over rapidly in multiple cell types in a proteasome-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC3661275  PMID: 19954423
half-life; mitochondrion; proteasome; protein degradation; uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1); uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3)
11.  TRPV1-mediated UCP2 upregulation ameliorates hyperglycemia-induced endothelial dysfunction 
Diabetic cardiovascular complications are characterised by oxidative stress-induced endothelial dysfunction. Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is a regulator of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and can antagonise oxidative stress, but approaches that enhance the activity of UCP2 to inhibit ROS are scarce. Our previous studies show that activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) by capsaicin can prevent cardiometabolic disorders. In this study, we conducted experiments in vitro and in vivo to investigate the effect of capsaicin treatment on endothelial UCP2 and oxidative stress. We hypothesised that TRPV1 activation by capsaicin attenuates hyperglycemia-induced endothelial dysfunction through a UCP2-mediated antioxidant effect.
TRPV1-/-, UCP2 -/- and db/db mice, as well as matched wild type (WT) control mice, were included in this study. Some mice were subjected to dietary capsaicin for 14 weeks. Arteries isolated from mice and endothelial cells were cultured. Endothelial function was examined, and immunohistological and molecular analyses were performed.
Under high-glucose conditions, TRPV1 expression and protein kinase A (PKA) phosphorylation were found to be decreased in the cultured endothelial cells, and the effects of high-glucose on these molecules were reversed by the administration of capsaicin. Furthermore, high-glucose exposure increased ROS production and reduced nitric oxide (NO) levels both in endothelial cells and in arteries that were evaluated respectively by dihydroethidium (DHE) and DAF-2 DA fluorescence. Capsaicin administration decreased the production of ROS, restored high-glucose-induced endothelial dysfunction through the activation of TRPV1 and acted in a UCP2-dependent manner in vivo. Administration of dietary capsaicin for 14 weeks increased the levels of PKA phosphorylation and UCP2 expression, ameliorated the vascular oxidative stress and increased NO levels observed in diabetic mice. Prolonged dietary administration of capsaicin promoted endothelium-dependent relaxation in diabetic mice. However, the beneficial effect of capsaicin on vasorelaxation was absent in the aortas of UCP2 -/- mice exposed to high-glucose levels.
TRPV1 activation by capsaicin might protect against hyperglycemia-induced endothelial dysfunction through a mechanism involving the PKA/UCP2 pathway.
PMCID: PMC3644255  PMID: 23607427
TRPV1; Diabetes; Capsaicin; Endothelium; Oxidative stress; UCP2
12.  Both ischemic preconditioning and ghrelin administration protect hippocampus from ischemia/reperfusion and upregulate uncoupling protein-2 
BMC Physiology  2009;9:17.
A major endogenous protective mechanism in many organs against ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury is ischemic preconditioning (IPC). By moderately uncoupling the mitochondrial respiratory chain and decreasing production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), IPC reduces apoptosis induced by I/R by reducing cytochrome c release from the mitochondria. One element believed to contribute to reduce ROS production is the uncoupling protein UCP2 (and UCP3 in the heart). Although its implication in IPC in the brain has been shown in vitro, no in vivo study of protein has shown its upregulation. Our first goal was to determine in rat hippocampus whether UCP2 protein upregulation was associated with IPC-induced protection and increased ROS production. The second goal was to determine whether the peptide ghrelin, which possesses anti-oxidant and protective properties, alters UCP2 mRNA levels in the same way as IPC during protection.
After global forebrain ischemia (15 min) with 72 h reperfusion (I/R group), we found important neuronal lesion in the rat hippocampal CA1 region, which was reduced by a preceding 3-min preconditioning ischemia (IPC+I/R group), whereas the preconditioning stimulus alone (IPC group) had no effect. Compared to control, UCP2 protein labelling increased moderately in the I/R (+39%, NS) and IPC+I/R (+28%, NS) groups, and substantially in the IPC group (+339%, P < 0.05). Treatment with superoxide dismutase (10000 U/kg ip) at the time of a preconditioning ischemia greatly attenuated (-73%, P < 0.001) the increase in UCP2 staining at 72 h, implying a role of oxygen radicals in UCP2 induction.
Hippocampal UCP2 mRNA showed a moderate increase in I/R (+33%, P < 0.05) and IPC+I/R (+40%, P < 0.05) groups versus control, and a large increase in the IPC group (+333%, P < 0.001). In ghrelin experiments, the I/R+ghrelin group (3 daily administrations) showed considerable protection of CA1 neurons versus I/R animals, and increased hippocampal UCP2 mRNA (+151%, P < 0.001).
We confirm that IPC causes increased expression of UCP2 protein in vivo, at a moment appropriate for protection against I/R in the hippocampus. The two dissimilar protective strategies, IPC and ghrelin administration, were both associated with upregulated UCP2, suggesting that UCP2 may often represent a final common pathway in protection from I/R.
PMCID: PMC2754976  PMID: 19772611
13.  Identification of a Redox-Modulatory Interaction Between Uncoupling Protein 3 and Thioredoxin 2 in the Mitochondrial Intermembrane Space 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2011;15(10):2645-2661.
Uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) is a member of the mitochondrial solute carrier superfamily that is enriched in skeletal muscle and controls mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, but the mechanisms underlying this function are unclear.
The goal of this work focused on the identification of mechanisms underlying UCP3 functions.
Here we report that the N-terminal, intermembrane space (IMS)-localized hydrophilic domain of mouse UCP3 interacts with the N-terminal mitochondrial targeting signal of thioredoxin 2 (Trx2), a mitochondrial thiol reductase. Cellular immunoprecipitation and in vitro pull-down assays show that the UCP3–Trx2 complex forms directly, and that the Trx2 N-terminus is both necessary and sufficient to confer UCP3 binding. Mutation studies show that neither a catalytically inactivated Trx2 mutant, nor a mutant Trx2 bearing the N-terminal targeting sequence of cytochrome c oxidase (COXMTS-Trx2) bind UCP3. Biochemical analyses using permeabilized mitochondria, and live cell experiments using bimolecular fluorescence complementation show that the UCP3–Trx2 complex forms specifically in the IMS. Finally, studies in C2C12 myocytes stably overexpressing UCP3 (2.5-fold) and subjected to Trx2 knockdown show that Trx2 is required for the UCP3-dependent mitigation of complex III-driven mitochondrial ROS generation. UCP3 expression was increased in mice fed a high fat diet, leading to increased localization of Trx2 to the IMS. UCP3 overexpression also increased expression of the glucose transporter GLUT4 in a Trx2-dependent fashion.
This is the first report of a mitochondrial protein–protein interaction with UCP3 and the first demonstration that UCP3 binds directly, and in cells and tissues with mitochondrial thioredoxin 2.
These studies identify a novel UCP3–Trx2 complex, a novel submitochondrial localization of Trx2, and a mechanism underlying UCP3-regulated mitochondrial ROS production. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 15, 2645–2661.
PMCID: PMC3183655  PMID: 21619484
14.  Genetic Deletion of Uncoupling Protein 3 Exaggerates Apoptotic Cell Death in the Ischemic Heart Leading to Heart Failure 
Uncoupling protein 3 (ucp3) is a member of the mitochondrial anion carrier superfamily of proteins uncoupling mitochondrial respiration. In this study, we investigated the effects of ucp3 genetic deletion on mitochondrial function and cell survival under low oxygen conditions in vitro and in vivo.
Methods and Results
To test the effects of ucp3 deletion in vitro, murine embryonic fibroblasts and adult cardiomyocytes were isolated from wild‐type (WT, n=67) and ucp3 knockout mice (ucp3−/−, n=70). To test the effects of ucp3 genetic deletion in vivo, myocardial infarction (MI) was induced by permanent coronary artery ligation in WT and ucp3−/− mice. Compared with WT, ucp3−/− murine embryonic fibroblasts and cardiomyocytes exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction and increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation and apoptotic cell death under hypoxic conditions in vitro (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase‐dUTP nick end labeling–positive nuclei: WT hypoxia, 70.3±1.2%; ucp3−/− hypoxia, 85.3±0.9%; P<0.05). After MI, despite similar areas at risk in the 2 groups, ucp3−/− hearts demonstrated a significantly larger infarct size compared with WT (infarct area/area at risk: WT, 48.2±3.7%; ucp3−/−, 65.0±2.9%; P<0.05). Eight weeks after MI, cardiac function was significantly decreased in ucp3−/− mice compared with WT (fractional shortening: WT MI, 42.7±3.1%; ucp3−/− MI, 24.4±2.9; P<0.05), and this was associated with heightened apoptotic cell death (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase‐dUTP nick end labeling–positive nuclei: WT MI, 0.7±0.04%; ucp3−/− MI, 1.1±0.09%, P<0.05).
Our data indicate that ucp3 levels regulate reactive oxygen species levels and cell survival during hypoxia, modulating infarct size in the ischemic heart.
PMCID: PMC3698767  PMID: 23688674
cardiac remodeling; free radicals; mitochondria; uncoupling protein
15.  The mitochondrial uncoupling protein-2 promotes chemoresistance in cancer cells 
Cancer research  2008;68(8):2813-2819.
Cancer cells acquire drug resistance as a result of selection pressure dictated by unfavorable microenvironments. This survival process is facilitated through efficient control of oxidative stress originating from mitochondria that typically initiates programmed cell death. We show this critical adaptive response in cancer cells to be linked to uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2), a mitochondrial suppressor of reactive oxygen species (ROS). UCP2 is present in drug-resistant lines of various cancer cells and in human colon cancer. Overexpression of UCP2 in HCT116 human colon cancer cells inhibits ROS accumulation and apoptosis post-exposure to chemotherapeutic agents. Tumor xenografts of UCP2-overexpressing HCT116 cells retain growth in nude mice receiving chemotherapy. Augmented cancer cell survival is accompanied by altered N-terminal phosphorylation of the pivotal tumor suppressor p53 and induction of the glycolytic phenotype (Warburg effect). These findings link UCP2 with molecular mechanisms of chemoresistance. Targeting UCP2 may be considered a novel treatment strategy for cancer.
PMCID: PMC2386271  PMID: 18413749
Uncoupling protein-2; mitochondria; apoptosis; p53; chemoresistance
16.  Acetoacetate reduces growth and ATP concentration in cancer cell lines which over-express uncoupling protein 2 
Recent evidence suggests that several human cancers are capable of uncoupling of mitochondrial ATP generation in the presence of intact tricarboxylic acid (TCA) enzymes. The goal of the current study was to test the hypothesis that ketone bodies can inhibit cell growth in aggressive cancers and that expression of uncoupling protein 2 is a contributing factor. The proposed mechanism involves inhibition of glycolytic ATP production via a Randle-like cycle while increased uncoupling renders cancers unable to produce compensatory ATP from respiration.
Seven aggressive human cancer cell lines, and three control fibroblast lines were grown in vitro in either 10 mM glucose medium (GM), or in glucose plus 10 mM acetoacetate [G+AcA]. The cells were assayed for cell growth, ATP production and expression of UCP2.
There was a high correlation of cell growth with ATP concentration (r = 0.948) in a continuum across all cell lines. Controls demonstrated normal cell growth and ATP with the lowest density of mitochondrial UCP2 staining while all cancer lines demonstrated proportionally inhibited growth and ATP, and over-expression of UCP2 (p < 0.05).
Seven human cancer cell lines grown in glucose plus acetoacetate medium showed tightly coupled reduction of growth and ATP concentration. The findings were not observed in control fibroblasts. The observed over-expression of UCP2 in cancer lines, but not in controls, provides a plausible molecular mechanism by which acetoacetate spares normal cells but suppresses growth in cancer lines. The results bear on the hypothesized potential for ketogenic diets as therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2694762  PMID: 19480693
17.  β-Cell Uncoupling Protein 2 Regulates Reactive Oxygen Species Production, Which Influences Both Insulin and Glucagon Secretion 
Diabetes  2011;60(11):2710-2719.
The role of uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in pancreatic β-cells is highly debated, partly because of the broad tissue distribution of UCP2 and thus limitations of whole-body UCP2 knockout mouse models. To investigate the function of UCP2 in the β-cell, β-cell–specific UCP2 knockout mice (UCP2BKO) were generated and characterized.
UCP2BKO mice were generated by crossing loxUCP2 mice with mice expressing rat insulin promoter-driven Cre recombinase. Several in vitro and in vivo parameters were measured, including respiration rate, mitochondrial membrane potential, islet ATP content, reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), glucagon secretion, glucose and insulin tolerance, and plasma hormone levels.
UCP2BKO β-cells displayed mildly increased glucose-induced mitochondrial membrane hyperpolarization but unchanged rates of uncoupled respiration and islet ATP content. UCP2BKO islets had elevated intracellular ROS levels that associated with enhanced GSIS. Surprisingly, UCP2BKO mice were glucose-intolerant, showing greater α-cell area, higher islet glucagon content, and aberrant ROS-dependent glucagon secretion under high glucose conditions.
Using a novel β-cell–specific UCP2KO mouse model, we have shed light on UCP2 function in primary β-cells. UCP2 does not behave as a classical metabolic uncoupler in the β-cell, but has a more prominent role in the regulation of intracellular ROS levels that contribute to GSIS amplification. In addition, β-cell UCP2 contributes to the regulation of intraislet ROS signals that mediate changes in α-cell morphology and glucagon secretion.
PMCID: PMC3198081  PMID: 21984579
18.  UCP2 Deficiency Helps to Restrict the Pathogenesis of Experimental Cutaneous and Visceral Leishmaniosis in Mice 
Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is a mitochondrial transporter that has been shown to lower the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Intracellular pathogens such as Leishmania upregulate UCP2 and thereby suppress ROS production in infected host tissues, allowing the multiplication of parasites within murine phagocytes. This makes host UCP2 and ROS production potential targets in the development of antileishmanial therapies. Here we explore how UCP2 affects the outcome of cutaneous leishmaniosis (CL) and visceral leishmaniosis (VL) in wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 mice and in C57BL/6 mice lacking the UCP2 gene (UCP2KO).
Methodology and Findings
To investigate the effects of host UCP2 deficiency on Leishmania infection, we evaluated parasite loads and cytokine production in target organs. Parasite loads were significantly lower in infected UCP2KO mice than in infected WT mice. We also found that UCP2KO mice produced significantly more interferon-γ (IFN-γ), IL-17 and IL-13 than WT mice (P<0.05), suggesting that UCP2KO mice are resistant to Leishmania infection.
In this way, UCP2KO mice were better able than their WT counterparts to overcome L. major and L. infantum infections. These findings suggest that upregulating host ROS levels, perhaps by inhibiting UPC2, may be an effective approach to preventing leishmaniosis.
Author Summary
The leishmaniases comprise a group of diseases caused by infection by several species of intracellular protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania, which are transmitted by the bite of an infected sandfly. The leishmaniases represent a global public health problem, affecting an estimated 12 million people around the world and ranging from self-healing skin lesions to potentially fatal systemic infections. Here, we use mouse models of CL and VL to investigate the effect of a host gene called UCP2. Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is a mitochondrial carrier expressed in a wide variety of tissues, including white adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and the immune system. Intracellular pathogens such as Leishmania upregulate UCP2 and may weaken the immune system. Consequently, parasites survive and multiply within mouse macrophages. We demonstrate here that mice lacking the UCP2 gene are better able than WT mice to control both CL and VL. Infection was analyzed in vivo by measurement of footpad swelling, quantification of parasite load and assays for the production of cytokines and Leishmania-specific antibodies. These findings could have important implications in designing an effective approach to preventing leishmaniosis.
PMCID: PMC3578745  PMID: 23437414
19.  The Role of Uncoupling Proteins in Diabetes Mellitus 
Journal of Diabetes Research  2013;2013:585897.
Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are anion carriers expressed in the mitochondrial inner membrane that uncouple oxygen consumption by the respiratory chain from ATP synthesis. The physiological functions of UCPs have long been debated since the new UCPs (UCP2 to 5) were discovered, and the role of UCPs in the pathogeneses of diabetes mellitus is one of the hottest topics. UCPs are thought to be activated by superoxide and then decrease mitochondrial free radicals generation; this may provide a protective effect on diabetes mellitus that is under the oxidative stress conditions. UCP1 is considered to be a candidate gene for diabetes because of its role in thermogenesis and energy expenditure. UCP2 is expressed in several tissues and acts in the negative regulation of insulin secretion by β-cells and in fatty acid metabolism. UCP3 plays a role in fatty acid metabolism and energy homeostasis and modulates insulin sensitivity. Several gene polymorphisms of UCP1, UCP2, and UCP3 were reported to be associated with diabetes. The progress in the role of UCP1, UCP2, and UCP3 on diabetes mellitus is summarized in this review.
PMCID: PMC3687498  PMID: 23841103
20.  Increased uncoupling protein-2 and -3 mRNA expression during fasting in obese and lean humans. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1997;100(11):2665-2670.
Uncoupling protein-2 and -3 (UCP2 and UCP3) are mitochondrial proteins that show high sequence homology with the brown adipocyte-specific UCP1. UCP1 induces heat production by uncoupling respiration from ATP synthesis. UCP2 is widely expressed in human tissues, whereas UCP3 expression seems restricted to skeletal muscle, an important site of thermogenesis in humans. We have investigated the regulation of UCP2 and UCP3 gene expression in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue from lean and obese humans. UCP2 and -3 mRNA levels were not correlated with body mass index (BMI) in skeletal muscle, but a positive correlation (r = 0.55, P < 0.01, n = 22) was found between UCP2 mRNA level in adipose tissue and BMI. The effect of fasting was investigated in eight lean and six obese subjects maintained on a hypocaloric diet (1,045 kJ/d) for 5 d. Calorie restriction induced a similar 2-2.5-fold increase in UCP2 and -3 mRNA levels in lean and obese subjects. To study the effect of insulin on UCP gene expression, six lean and five obese subjects underwent a 3-h euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp. Insulin infusion did not modify UCP2 and -3 mRNA levels. In conclusion, the similar induction of gene expression observed during fasting in lean and obese subjects shows that there is no major alteration of UCP2 and -3 gene regulation in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle of obese subjects. The increase in UCP2 and -3 mRNA levels suggests a role for these proteins in the metabolic adaptation to fasting.
PMCID: PMC508469  PMID: 9389729
21.  UCP2 Inhibits ROS-Mediated Apoptosis in A549 under Hypoxic Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30714.
The Crosstalk between a tumor and its hypoxic microenvironment has become increasingly important. However, the exact role of UCP2 function in cancer cells under hypoxia remains unknown. In this study, UCP2 showed anti-apoptotic properties in A549 cells under hypoxic conditions. Over-expression of UCP2 in A549 cells inhibited reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation (P<0.001) and apoptosis (P<0.001) compared to the controls when the cells were exposed to hypoxia. Moreover, over-expression of UCP2 inhibited the release of cytochrome C and reduced the activation of caspase-9. Conversely, suppression of UCP2 resulted in the ROS generation (P = 0.006), the induction of apoptosis (P<0.001), and the release of cytochrome C from mitochondria to the cytosolic fraction, thus activating caspase-9. These data suggest that over-expression of UCP2 has anti-apoptotic properties by inhibiting ROS-mediated apoptosis in A549 cells under hypoxic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3265501  PMID: 22292025
22.  Superoxide-mediated activation of uncoupling protein 2 causes pancreatic β cell dysfunction 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(12):1831-1842.
Failure to secrete adequate amounts of insulin in response to increasing concentrations of glucose is an important feature of type 2 diabetes. The mechanism for loss of glucose responsiveness is unknown. Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2), by virtue of its mitochondrial proton leak activity and consequent negative effect on ATP production, impairs glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Of interest, it has recently been shown that superoxide, when added to isolated mitochondria, activates UCP2-mediated proton leak. Since obesity and chronic hyperglycemia increase mitochondrial superoxide production, as well as UCP2 expression in pancreatic β cells, a superoxide-UCP2 pathway could contribute importantly to obesity- and hyperglycemia-induced β cell dysfunction. This study demonstrates that endogenously produced mitochondrial superoxide activates UCP2-mediated proton leak, thus lowering ATP levels and impairing glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Furthermore, hyperglycemia- and obesity-induced loss of glucose responsiveness is prevented by reduction of mitochondrial superoxide production or gene knockout of UCP2. Importantly, reduction of superoxide has no beneficial effect in the absence of UCP2, and superoxide levels are increased further in the absence of UCP2, demonstrating that the adverse effects of superoxide on β cell glucose sensing are caused by activation of UCP2. Therefore, superoxide-mediated activation of UCP2 could play an important role in the pathogenesis of β cell dysfunction and type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC297000  PMID: 14679178
23.  Overexpression of Mitochondrial Uncoupling Protein 2 Inhibits Inflammatory Cytokines and Activates Cell Survival Factors after Cerebral Ischemia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31739.
Mitochondria play a critical role in cell survival and death after cerebral ischemia. Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are inner mitochondrial membrane proteins that disperse the mitochondrial proton gradient by translocating H+ across the inner membrane in order to stabilize the inner mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) and reduce the formation of reactive oxygen species. Previous studies have demonstrated that mice transgenically overexpressing UCP2 (UCP2 Tg) in the brain are protected from cerebral ischemia, traumatic brain injury and epileptic challenges. This study seeks to clarify the mechanisms responsible for neuroprotection after transient focal ischemia. Our hypothesis is that UCP2 is neuroprotective by suppressing innate inflammation and regulating cell cycle mediators. PCR gene arrays and protein arrays were used to determine mechanisms of damage and protection after transient focal ischemia. Our results showed that ischemia increased the expression of inflammatory genes and suppressed the expression of anti-apoptotic and cell cycle genes. Overexpression of UCP2 blunted the ischemia-induced increase in IL-6 and decrease in Bcl2. Further, UCP2 increased the expression of cell cycle genes and protein levels of phospho-AKT, PKC and MEK after ischemia. It is concluded that the neuroprotective effects of UCP2 against ischemic brain injury are associated with inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines and activation of cell survival factors.
PMCID: PMC3279373  PMID: 22348126
24.  Effects of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid on Uncoupling Protein 3 Gene Expression in C2C12 Muscle Cells 
Nutrients  2013;5(5):1660-1671.
Uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) is a mitochondrial membrane transporter that is expressed mainly in skeletal muscle where it plays an important role in energy expenditure and fat oxidation. In this study, we investigated the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on UCP3 gene expression in C2C12 muscle cells. EPA and DHA up-regulated UCP3 mRNA level in a dose-dependent manner and similarly increased UCP3 promoter activity in C2C12 muscle cells. To determine whether AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling may also directly regulate UCP3 expression, 5′-amino-4-imidazolecarboxamide-ribonucleoside (AICAR), an AMP analog that activates AMPK, was treated in C2C12 muscle cells. AICAR showed additive effects with EPA or DHA on the UCP3 promoter activation. These results indicate that EPA and DHA directly regulate the gene expression of UCP3, potentially through AMPK-mediated pathway in C2C12 muscle cells.
PMCID: PMC3708343  PMID: 23698161
eicosapentaenoic acid; docosahexaenoic acid; uncoupling protein 3; AMP-activated protein kinase
25.  Overexpression of UCP1 in tobacco induces mitochondrial biogenesis and amplifies a broad stress response 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:144.
Uncoupling protein one (UCP1) is a mitochondrial inner membrane protein capable of uncoupling the electrochemical gradient from adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP) synthesis, dissipating energy as heat. UCP1 plays a central role in nonshivering thermogenesis in the brown adipose tissue (BAT) of hibernating animals and small rodents. A UCP1 ortholog also occurs in plants, and aside from its role in uncoupling respiration from ATP synthesis, thereby wasting energy, it plays a beneficial role in the plant response to several abiotic stresses, possibly by decreasing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and regulating cellular redox homeostasis. However, the molecular mechanisms by which UCP1 is associated with stress tolerance remain unknown.
Here, we report that the overexpression of UCP1 increases mitochondrial biogenesis, increases the uncoupled respiration of isolated mitochondria, and decreases cellular ATP concentration. We observed that the overexpression of UCP1 alters mitochondrial bioenergetics and modulates mitochondrial-nuclear communication, inducing the upregulation of hundreds of nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded mitochondrial proteins. Electron microscopy analysis showed that these metabolic changes were associated with alterations in mitochondrial number, area and morphology. Surprisingly, UCP1 overexpression also induces the upregulation of hundreds of stress-responsive genes, including some involved in the antioxidant defense system, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPX) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST). As a consequence of the increased UCP1 activity and increased expression of oxidative stress-responsive genes, the UCP1-overexpressing plants showed reduced ROS accumulation. These beneficial metabolic effects may be responsible for the better performance of UCP1-overexpressing lines in low pH, high salt, high osmolarity, low temperature, and oxidative stress conditions.
Overexpression of UCP1 in the mitochondrial inner membrane induced increased uncoupling respiration, decreased ROS accumulation under abiotic stresses, and diminished cellular ATP content. These events may have triggered the expression of mitochondrial and stress-responsive genes in a coordinated manner. Because these metabolic alterations did not impair plant growth and development, UCP1 overexpression can potentially be used to create crops better adapted to abiotic stress conditions.
PMCID: PMC4046140  PMID: 24886177
UCP1; Mitochondria; Oxidative stress; Biogenesis; Plant; Stress response

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