We have identified and characterized an uncoupling protein in mitochondria isolated from leg muscle and from fat body, an insect analogue tissue of mammalian liver and adipose tissue, of the cockroach Gromphadorhina coquereliana (GcUCP). This is the first functional characterization of UCP activity in isolated insect mitochondria. Bioenergetic studies clearly indicate UCP function in both insect tissues. In resting (non-phosphorylating) mitochondria, cockroach GcUCP activity was stimulated by the addition of micromolar concentrations of palmitic acid and inhibited by the purine nucleotide GTP. Moreover, in phosphorylating mitochondria, GcUCP activity was able to divert energy from oxidative phosphorylation. Functional studies indicate a higher activity of GcUCP-mediated uncoupling in cockroach muscle mitochondria compared to fat body mitochondria. GcUCP activation by palmitic acid resulted in a decrease in superoxide anion production, suggesting that protection against mitochondrial oxidative stress may be a physiological role of UCPs in insects. GcUCP protein was immunodetected using antibodies raised against human UCP4 as a single band of around 36 kDa. GcUCP protein expression in cockroach muscle mitochondria was significantly higher compared to mitochondria isolated from fat body. LC-MS/MS analyses revealed 100% sequence identities for peptides obtained from GcUCP to UCP4 isoforms from D. melanogaster (the highest homology), human, rat or other insect mitochondria. Therefore, it can be proposed that cockroach GcUCP corresponds to the UCP4 isoforms of other animals.