Neptune Seminar Series | Tito Mendes | 7 December | 12h



Molecular evolution of the UCP gene family challenges the role of UCP1 in mammalian non-shivering thermogenesis.


Name: Tito Mendes



The acquisition of a heat generation process independent from muscle contraction (non-shivering thermogenesis) was a key step in the evolution of mammals. For a long time, it was widely accepted that the non-shivering thermogenesis in mammals was mediated by the Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1) expressed in the mitochondria of brown adipose tissue. However, the role of UCP1 has been facing some criticism in the recent years, with an alternative thermogenic mechanisms being suggested. In this study, the molecular evolution of the UCP1 gene and its paralogs was assessed throughout different vertebrate classes in a comparative approach. We have found that the evolutionary pattern of UCP1 varies from those of its paralogs and it exhibits adaptive molecular evolution in particular mammalian lineages. Even though the UCP1-mediated non-shivering thermogenesis model cannot be applied to all mammals (specially due to pseudogenization events), some mammalian lineages seem to rely on UCP1 for thermogenic purposes.