UCPs (uncoupling proteins) can regulate cellular ATP production by uncoupling oxidative phosphorylation. UCP2 is expressed in islet β-cells and its induction reduces glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Under physiological conditions, superoxide, formed as a by-product of respiration, activates UCP2. This leads to reduced ATP production, which impairs closure of the ATP-dependent K+ channels to prevent insulin secretion. It is suggested that the physiological role of UCP2 is to prevent excessive superoxide generation through a feedback loop. UCP2 induction may also alter fatty acid metabolism by altering NAD/NADH or by facilitating cycling of fatty acid anions. Recently, UCP2 has been proposed to keep insulin secretion low during starvation, a function under the control of the transcription co-repressor, surtuin-1, which has been shown to bind to the UCP2 promoter. Pathological UCP2 expression or activation may suppress glucose-stimulated insulin secretion to the extent that diabetes onset is hastened. In ob/ob mice, induction of UCP2 at age 5 weeks precedes development of insulin secretion defects and hyperglycaemia. Activating protein kinase A-dependent pathways can normalize insulin secretion in UCP2-overexpressing islets. Conversely, lowering UCP2 expression may promote increased insulin secretion. UCP2 knockout mice were protected from the diabetogenic effects of a high-fat diet and their islets exhibited increased sensitivity to glucose and elevated ATP/ADP. These results support a role for UCP2 as a gene contributing to the pathogenesis of Type 2 diabetes.

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