The overall aim of the research projects conducted in the Harper lab is to better understand the control of cellular energy transduction processes in health and disease. In particular, Dr. Harper's laboratory investigates the metabolic significance and control of uncoupling proteins (UCPs). UCPs are a subfamily of the mitochondrial carrier protein family and are located in the mitochondrial inner membrane. They have been hypothesized to cause a mitochondrial proton leak, and thereby allow protons to return to the mitochondrial matrix, bypassing ATP synthase. Thus energy substrates are oxidized, and the energy is released (or "wasted") as heat, instead of being converted to ATP. The function of such seemingly wasteful processes is a major interest of the lab. The role of uncoupling proteins in protection from reactive oxygen species, and cell death, is an expanding research interest of the laboratory group, and has implications for an improved understanding of cell death and aging processes.