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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jun-Jul;1797(6-7):773-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2010.04.007. Epub 2010 Apr 14.

Uncoupling protein-1 is not leaky.

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The Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


The activity of uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) is rate-limiting for nonshivering thermogenesis and diet-induced thermogenesis. Characteristically, this activity is inhibited by GDP experimentally and presumably mainly by cytosolic ATP within brown-fat cells. The issue as to whether UCP1 has a residual proton conductance even when fully saturated with GDP/ATP (as has recently been suggested) has not only scientific but also applied interest, since a residual proton conductance would make overexpressed UCP1 weight-reducing even without physiological/pharmacological activation. To examine this question, we have here established optimal conditions for studying the bioenergetics of wild-type and UCP1-/- brown-fat mitochondria, analysing UCP1-mediated differences in parallel preparations of brown-fat mitochondria from both genotypes. Comparing different substrates, we find that pyruvate (or palmitoyl-L-carnitine) shows the largest relative coupling by GDP. Comparing albumin concentrations, we find the range 0.1-0.6% optimal; higher concentrations are inhibitory. Comparing basic medium composition, we find 125 mM sucrose optimal; an ionic medium (50-100 mM KCl) functions for wild-type but is detrimental for UCP1-/- mitochondria. Using optimal conditions, we find no evidence for a residual proton conductance (not a higher post-GDP respiration, a lower membrane potential or an altered proton leak at highest common potential) with either pyruvate or glycerol-3-phosphate as substrates, nor by a 3-4-fold alteration of the amount of UCP1. We could demonstrate that certain experimental conditions, due to respiratoty inhibition, could lead to the suggestion that UCP1 possesses a residual proton conductance but find that under optimal conditions our experiments concur with implications from physiological observations that in the presence of inhibitory nucleotides, UCP1 is not leaky.

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