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EMBO J. 1994 Apr 15;13(8):1990-7.

A sequence related to a DNA recognition element is essential for the inhibition by nucleotides of proton transport through the mitochondrial uncoupling protein.

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Centre de Recherches sur l'Endocrinologie Moléculaire et le Développement, CNRS, Meudon, France.


The uncoupling protein (UCP) is uniquely expressed in brown adipose tissue, which is a thermogenic organ of mammals. The UCP uncouples mitochondrial respiration from ATP production by introducing a proton conducting pathway through the mitochondrial inner membrane. The activity of the UCP is regulated: nucleotide binding to the UCP inhibits proton conductance whereas free fatty acids increase it. The similarities between the UCP, the ADP/ATP carrier and the DNA recognition element found in the DNA binding domain of the estrogen receptor suggested that these proteins could share common features in their respective interactions with free nucleotides or DNA, and thus defined a putative 'nucleotide recognition element' in the UCP. This article provides demonstration of the validity of this hypothesis. The putative nucleotide recognition element corresponding to the amino acids 261-269 of the UCP was gradually destroyed, and these mutant proteins were expressed in yeast. Flow cytometry, measuring the mitochondrial membrane potential in vivo, showed increased uncoupling activities of these mutant proteins, and was corroborated with studies with isolated mitochondria. The deletion of the three amino acids Phe267, Lys268 and Gly269, resulted in a mutant where proton leak could be activated by fatty acids but not inhibited by nucleotides.

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