Animal and plant uncoupling protein (UCP) homologues form a subfamily of mitochondrial carriers that are evolutionarily related and possibly derived from a proton/anion transporter ancestor. The brown adipose tissue (BAT) UCP1 has a marked and strongly regulated uncoupling activity, essential to the maintenance of body temperature in small mammals. UCP homologues identified in plants are induced in a cold environment and may be involved in resistance to chilling. The biochemical activities and biological functions of the recently identified mammalian UCP2 and UCP3 are not well known. However, recent data support a role for these UCPs in State 4 respiration, respiration uncoupling and proton leaks in mitochondria. Moreover, genetic studies suggest that UCP2 and UCP3 play a part in energy expenditure in humans. The UCPs may also be involved in adaptation of cellular metabolism to an excessive supply of substrates in order to regulate the ATP level, the NAD+/NADH ratio and various metabolic pathways, and to contain superoxide production. A major goal will be the analysis of mice that either lack the UCP2 or UCP3 gene or overexpress these genes. Other aims will be to investigate the possible roles of UCP2 and UCP3 in response to oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, inflammatory processes, fever and regulation of temperature in certain specific parts of the body.

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