Cloning and functional characterization of an uncoupling protein homolog in hummingbirds

Claudia R. Vianna, Thilo Hagen, Chen Yu Zhang, Eric Bachman, Olivier Boss, Balazs Gereben, Anselmo S. Moriscot, Bradford B. Lowell, José Eduardo P.W. Bicudo, Antonio C. Bianco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The cDNA of an uncoupling protein (UCP) homolog has been cloned from the swallow-tailed hummingbird, Eupetomena macroura. The hummingbird uncoupling protein (HmUCP) cDNA was amplified from pectoral muscle (flight muscle) using RT-PCR and primers for conserved domains of various known UCP homologs. The rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) method was used to complete the cloning of the 5′ and 3′ ends of the open reading frame. The HmUCP coding region contains 915 nucleotides, and the deduced protein sequence consists of 304 amino acids, being ∼72, 70, and 55% identical to human UCP3, UCP2, and UCP1, respectively. The uncoupling activity of this novel protein was characterized in yeast. In this expression system, the 12CA5-tagged HmUCP fusion protein was detected by Western blot in the enriched mitochondrial fraction. Similarly to rat UCP1, HmUCP decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential as measured in whole yeast by uptake of the fluorescent potential-sensitive dye 3′,3-dihexyloxacarbocyanine iodide. The HmUCP mRNA is primarily expressed in skeletal muscle, but high levels can also be detected in heart and liver, as assessed by Northern blot analysis. Lowering the room's temperature to 12-14°C triggered the cycle torpor/rewarming, typical of hummingbirds. Both in the pectoral muscle and heart, HmUCP mRNA levels were 1.5- to 3.4-fold higher during torpor. In conclusion, this is the first report of an UCP homolog in birds. The data indicate that HmUCP has the potential to function as an UCP and could play a thermogenic role during rewarming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiological Genomics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2001


  • Birds
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Nonshivering thermogenesis
  • Torpor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Physiology


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