Genomic organization and mutational analysis of the human UCP2 gene, a prime candidate gene for human obesity.J Recept Signal Transduct Res. 1999 Jan-Jul; 19(1-4):229-44.JR
Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are mitochondrial membrane transporters which are involved in dissipating the proton electrochemical gradient thereby releasing stored energy as heat. This implies a major role of UCPs in energy metabolism and thermogenesis which when deregulated are key risk factors for the development of obesity and other eating disorders. Recent studies have shown that the sympathetic nervous system, via norepinephrine (beta-adrenoceptors) and cAMP, as well as thyroid hormones and PPAR gamma ligands seem to be major regulators of UCP expression. From the three different UCPs identified so far by gene cloning UCP1 is expressed exclusively in brown adipocytes while UCP2 is widely expressed. The third analogue, UCP3, is expressed predominantly in human skeletal muscle and was found to exist in a long and a short form. At the amino acid level UCP2 has about 59% homology to UCP1 while UCP3 is 73% identical to UCP2. Both UCP2 and UCP3 were mapped in close proximity (75-150 kb) to regions of human chromosome 11 (11q13) that have been linked to obesity and hyper-insulinaemia. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that UCP2, by virtue of its ubiquitous expression, may be important for determining basal metabolic rate. Based on the published full-length cDNA sequence we have deduced the genomic structure of the human UCP2 (hUCP2) gene by PCR and direct sequence analysis. The hUCP2 gene spans over 8.4 kb distributed on 8 exons. The localization of the exon/intron boundaries within the coding region matches precisely the one found in the human UCP1 gene and is almost conserved in the recently discovered UCP3 gene as well. However, the size of each of the introns in the hUCP2 gene differs from its UCP1 and UCP3 counterparts. It varies from 81 bp (intron 5) to about 3 kb (intron 2). The high degree of homology at the nucleotide level and the conservation of the exon/intron boundaries among the three UCP genes suggests that they may have evolved from a common ancestor or are the result from gene duplication events. Mutational analysis of the hUCP2 gene in a cohort of 25 children of caucasian origin (aged 7-13) characterized by low BMR values revealed a point mutation in exon 4 (C to T transition at position 164 of the corresponding cDNA resulting in the substitution of an alanine residue by a valine at codon 55) and an insertion polymorphism in exon 8. The insertion polymorphism consists of a 45 bp repeat located 150 bp downstream of the stop codon in the 3'-UTR. The allele frequencies were 0.61 and 0.39 for the alanine and valine encoded alleles, respectively, and 0.71 versus 0.29 for the insertion polymorphism. Expression studies of the wildtype and mutant forms of UCP2 should clarify the functional consequences these mutations may have on energy metabolism and body weight regulation. In addition, mapping of the promoter region and the identification of putative promoter regulatory sequences should give insight into the transcriptional regulation of UCP2 expression--in particular by anyone of the above mentioned factors--in vitro and in vivo.