Friedreich's ataxia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disease caused by an intronic GAA triplet expansion in the FXN gene, leading to reduced expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. FA is estimated to affect 1 in 50,000 with a mean age of death in the fourth decade of life. There are no approved treatments for FA, although experimental approaches, which involve up-regulation or replacement of frataxin protein, are being tested. Frataxin is undetectable in serum or plasma, and whole blood cannot be used because it is present in long-lived erythrocytes. Therefore, an assay was developed for analyzing frataxin in platelets, which have a half-life of 10-days. The assay is based on stable isotope dilution immunopurification two-dimensional nano-ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography/parallel reaction monitoring/mass spectrometry. The lower limit of quantification was 0.078 pg frataxin/μg protein and the assay had 100% sensitivity and specificity for discriminating between controls and FA cases. The mean levels of control and FA platelet frataxin were 9.4 2.6 pg/g protein and 2.4 0.6 pg/g protein, respectively. The assay should make it possible to rigorously monitor the effects of therapeutic interventions on frataxin expression in this devastating disease.
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