In isolated mitochondria the consequences of oxidative phosphorylation uncoupling are well defined, whereas in intact cells various effects have been described. Uncoupling liver cells with 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) in the presence of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and ethanol results in a marked decrease in mitochondrial transmembrane electrical potential (∆ψ), ATP/ADP ratios and gluconeogenesis (as an ATP-utilizing process), whereas the increased oxidation rate is limited and transient. Conversely, when DHA is associated with octanoate or proline, DNP addition results in a very large and sustained increase in oxidation rate, whereas the decreases in ∆ψ, ATP/ADP ratios and gluconeogenesis are significantly less when compared with DHA and ethanol. Hence significant energy wastage (high oxidation rate) by uncoupling is achieved only with substrates that are directly oxidized in the mitochondrial matrix. Conversely in the presence of substrates that are first oxidized in the cytosol, uncoupling results in a profound decrease in mitochondrial ∆ψ and ATP synthesis, whereas energy wastage is very limited.

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