Brain uncoupling protein 2: Uncoupled neuronal mitochondria predict thermal synapses in homeostatic centers

Tamas L. Horvath, Craig H Warden, Mihaly Hajos, Assunta Lombardi, Fernando Goglia, Sabrina Diano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Distinct brain peptidergic circuits govern peripheral energy homeostasis and related behavior. Here we report that mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is expressed discretely in neurons involved in homeostatic regulation. UCP2 protein was associated with the mitochondria of neurons, predominantly in axons and axon terminals. UCP2-producing neurons were found to be the targets of peripheral hormones, including leptin and gonadal steroids, and the presence of UCP2 protein in axonal processes predicted increased local brain mitochondrial uncoupling activity and heat production. In the hypothalamus, perikarya producing corticotropin-releasing factor, vasopressin, oxytocin, and neuropeptide Y also expressed UCP2. Furthermore, axon terminals containing UCP2 innervated diverse hypothalamic neuronal populations. These cells included those producing orexin, melanin- concentrating hormone, and luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone. When c-fos- expressing cells were analyzed in the basal brain after either fasting or cold exposure, it was found that all activated neurons received a robust UCP2 input on their perikarya and proximal dendrites. Thus, our data suggest the novel concept that heat produced by axonal UCP2 modulates neurotransmission in homeostatic centers, thereby coordinating the activity of those brain circuits that regulate daily energy balance and related autonomic and endocrine processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10417-10427
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999


  • Autonomic and endocrine regulation
  • Axon terminals
  • Brain
  • Cranial temperature
  • Neurons
  • Proton leak
  • Uncoupling proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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