The ability of the mitochondrion to (a) manage fuel import to oxidize for adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) generation while (b) protecting itself and the cellular environment from electron leak, which can generate highly reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a delicate balancing act. ATP is the currency of the cell and as such serves a signaling function as a substrate partner to many kinases and ion channels. While various ROS species have been viewed as a dangerous and toxic group of molecules, it also has a role as a signal derived from mitochondria, as well as other enzymatic sources: a double-edged sword. Current efforts to understand the biochemical mechanisms affected by ROS as a signal--usually noted to be hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2))--are exciting, but this duality of ROS effects also pose challenges in managing its levels to protect cells. The mitochondrial uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2), UCP3, and the permeability transition pore have been integral to efforts to try to understand what role mitochondrial-derived ROS have in cells. In this piece we reflect on mitochondrial ROS and uncoupling proteins as signaling regulators. It seems that when it comes to ROS and uncoupling the proverb "Moderation in all things" is apt.
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