Cardiomyopathy is often fatal in Friedreich Ataxia (FA). However, FA hearts maintain adequate function until advanced disease stages, suggesting initial adaptation to the loss of frataxin (FXN). Conditional cardiac knockout mouse models of FXN show transcriptional and metabolic profiles of the mitochondrial integrated stress response (ISRmt), which could play an adaptive role. However, ISRmt has not been investigated in models with disease-relevant, partial decrease of FXN. The authors characterized the heart transcriptomes and metabolomes of three mouse models with varying degrees of FXN depletion, YG8-800, KIKO-700, and FxnG127V. Few metabolites were changed in YG8-800 mice and did not provide a signature of cardiomyopathy or ISRmt. Instead, several metabolites were altered in FxnG127V and KIKO-700 hearts. Transcriptional changes were found in all models, but differentially expressed genes consistent with cardiomyopathy and ISRmt were only identified in FxnG127V hearts. However, these changes were surprisingly mild even at an advanced age (18-months), despite a severe decrease in FXN levels to 1% of WT. These findings indicate that the mouse heart has low reliance on FXN, highlighting the difficulty in modeling genetically relevant FA cardiomyopathy.

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