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Pflugers Arch. 2011 Jan;461(1):153-64. doi: 10.1007/s00424-010-0892-3. Epub 2010 Nov 7.

Uncoupling protein 3 expression levels influence insulin sensitivity, fatty acid oxidation, and related signaling pathways.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Seconda Universit√† degli Studi di Napoli, Via Vivaldi 43, Caserta, Italy.


Controversy exists on whether uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) positively or negatively influences insulin sensitivity in vivo, and the underlying signaling pathways have been scarcely studied. We studied how a progressive reduction in UCP3 expression (using UCP3 +/+, UCP3 +/-, and UCP3 -/- mice) modulates insulin sensitivity and related metabolic parameters. In order to further validate our observations, we also studied animals in which insulin resistance was induced by administration of a high-fat diet (HFD). In UCP3 +/- and UCP3 -/- mice, gastrocnemius muscle Akt/protein kinase B (Akt/PKB) (serine 473) and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) (threonine 171) phosphorylation, and glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) membrane levels were reduced compared to UCP3 +/+ mice. The HOMA-IR index (insulin resistance parameter) was increased both in the UCP3 +/- and UCP3 -/- mice. In these mice, insulin administration normalized Akt/PKB phosphorylation between genotypes while AMPK phosphorylation was further reduced, and sarcolemmal GLUT4 levels were induced but did not reach control levels. Furthermore, non-insulin-stimulated muscle fatty acid oxidation and the expression of several involved genes both in muscle and in liver were reduced. HFD administration induced insulin resistance in UCP3 +/+ mice and the aforementioned parameters resulted similar to those of chow-fed UCP3 +/- and UCP3 -/- mice. In conclusion, high-fat-diet-induced insulin resistance in wild-type mice mimics that of chow-fed UCP3 +/- and UCP3 -/- mice showing that progressive reduction of UCP3 levels results in insulin resistance. This is accompanied by decreased fatty acid oxidation and a less intense Akt/PKB and AMPK signaling.

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