The location and nature of the GAA expansion in the FXN gene have been proven to contribute to its transcriptional repression by decreasing the rate of polymerase II (RNA polymerase II) progression and increasing the presence of histone modifications associated with a heterochromatin-like state. Targeting impaired FXN transcription appears as a feasible option for therapeutic intervention, while no cure currently exists. The authors created a novel reporter cell line containing an FXN-Nanoluciferase (FXN-NLuc) fusion in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) reprogrammed from the fibroblasts of patients with FRDA, thus allowing quantification of endogenous FXN expression. The use of iPSCs provides the opportunity to differentiate these cells into disease-relevant neural progenitor cells (NPCs). NPCs derived from the FXN-NLuc line responded to treatments with a known FXN inducer, RG109. Results were validated by quantitative PCR and Western blot in multiple FRDA NPC lines. A commercially available library of compounds consisting of molecules targeting various enzymes and pathways critical for silencing or activation of gene expression was then screened. Only selected histone deacetylase inhibitors were capable of partial reactivation of FXN expression. This endogenous, FRDA iPSC-derived reporter can be utilized for high-throughput campaigns performed in cells most relevant to disease pathology in search of FXN transcription activators.

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