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J Biol Chem. 1996 Feb 2;271(5):2615-20.

On the mechanism of fatty acid-induced proton transport by mitochondrial uncoupling protein.

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Department of Chemistry, Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, Portland 97291-1000, USA.


Uncoupling protein mediates electrophoretic transport of protons and anions across the inner membrane of brown adipose tissue mitochondria. The mechanism and site of proton transport, the mechanism by which fatty acids activate proton transport, and the relationship between fatty acids and anion transport are unknown. We used fluorescent probes to measure H+ and anion transport in vesicles reconstituted with purified uncoupling protein and carried out a comparative study of the effects of laurate and its close analogue, undecanesulfonate. Undecanesulfonate was transported by uncoupling protein with a Km value similar to that observed for laurate as it activated H+ transport. Both laurate and undecanesulfonate inhibited Cl- with competitive kinetics. Undecanesulfonate inhibited laurate-induced H+ transport with competitive kinetics. Undecanesulfonate and laurate differed in two important respects. (i) Laurate caused uncoupling protein-mediated H+ transport, whereas undecanesulfonate did not. (ii) Lauric acid was rapidly transported across the bilayer by nonionic diffusion, whereas undecanesulfonic was not. We infer that the role of uncoupling protein in H+ transport is to transport fatty acid anions and that fatty acids induce H+ transport because they can diffuse electroneutrally across the membrane. According to this hypothesis, uncoupling protein is a pure anion porter and does not transport protons; rather it is designed to enable fatty acids to behave as cycling protonophores.

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