Uncoupling Protein 2 as a pathogenic determinant and therapeutic target in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases

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Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is a mitochondrial protein that acts as an anion carrier. It is involved in the regulation of several processes including mitochondrial membrane potential, generation of reactive oxygen species within the inner mitochondrial membrane and calcium homeostasis. UCP2 expression can be regulated at different levels: genetic (gene variants), transcriptional [by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) and microRNAs], and post-translational. Experimental evidence indicates that activation of UCP2 expression through the AMPK/PPAR-α axis exerts a protective effect toward renal damage and stroke occurrence in an animal model of ischemic stroke (IS) associated with hypertension. UCP2 plays a key role in heart diseases (myocardial infarction and cardiac hypertrophy) and metabolic disorders (obesity and diabetes). In humans, UCP2 genetic variants (-866G/A and Ala55Val) associate with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and of IS development. Over the last few years, many agents that modulate UCP2 expression have been identified. Some of them are natural compounds of plant origin such as Brassica oleracea, curcumin, berberine and resveratrol. Other molecules, currently used in clinical practice, include anti-diabetic (gliptin) and chemotherapeutic (doxorubicin and taxol) drugs. This evidence highlights the relevant role of UCP2 for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, which affect the national health systems of the Western countries. We will review current knowledge on the physiological and pathological implications of UCP2 with particular regard to cardiovascular and metabolic disorders and will focus on the available therapeutic approaches affecting UCP2 level for the treatment of human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-674
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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