Mitochondrial uncoupling proteins (UCP) are members of the larger family of mitochondrial anion carrier proteins (MACP). UCPs separate oxidative phosphorylation from ATP synthesis with energy dissipated as heat, also referred to as the mitochondrial proton leak. UCPs facilitate the transfer of anions from the inner to the outer mitochondrial membrane and the return transfer of protons from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane. They also reduce the mitochondrial membrane potential in mammalian cells. The different UCP's have tissue-specific expression; UCP3 is primarily expressed in skeletal muscle. It is postulated to protect mitochondria against lipid-induced oxidative stress. Expression levels of UCP3 increase when fatty acid supplies to mitochondria exceed their oxidation capacity, and the protein enables the export of fatty acids from mitochondria. UCP's contain the three solcar protein domains typically found in MACPs (1).
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