The selective loss of proprioceptive neurons is a hallmark of Friedreich ataxia, but the cause of the specific vulnerability of these cells is still unknown. This study performs an in vitro characterization of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived sensory neuronal cultures highly enriched for primary proprioceptive neurons. We employ neurons differentiated from healthy donors, Friedreich ataxia patients and Friedreich ataxia sibling isogenic control lines. The analysis of the transcriptomic and proteomic profile suggests an impairment of cytoskeleton organization at the growth cone, neurite extension and, at later stages of maturation, synaptic plasticity. Alterations in the spiking profile of tonic neurons are also observed at the electrophysiological analysis of mature neurons. Despite the reversal of the repressive epigenetic state at the FXN locus and the restoration of FXN expression, isogenic control neurons retain many features of Friedreich ataxia neurons. This study suggests the existence of abnormalities affecting proprioceptors in Friedreich ataxia, particularly their ability to extend towards their targets and transmit proper synaptic signals. It also highlights the need for further investigations to better understand the mechanistic link between FXN silencing and proprioceptive degeneration in Friedreich ataxia.

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