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Scientific News

FARA funds research progress

In this section, you will find the most recent FA research publications, many of which are funded by FARA, as well as information on upcoming conferences and symposiums. You can search for articles by date using the archive box in the right hand column. To locate FARA Funded or Supported Research, click the hyperlink in the right hand column. You may also search for specific content using key words or phrases in the search button at the top right of your screen. Please be sure to visit other key research sections of our website for information on FARA’s Grant Program and the Treatment Pipeline.



Folding and Dynamics are Strongly pH-Dependent in a Psychrophile Frataxin

Protein dynamics, folding, and thermodynamics represent a central aspect of biophysical chemistry. pH, temperature, and denaturant perturbations inform our understanding of diverse contributors to stability and rates. In this work, a thermodynamic analysis using a combined experimental and computational approach to gain insights into the role of electrostatics in the folding reaction of a psychrophile frataxin variant from Psychromonas ingrahamii. The folding reaction is strongly modulated by pH with a single, narrow and well-defined transition state with ~80% compactness, ~70% electrostatic interactions and ~60% hydration shell compared to the native state (αD=0.82, αH=0.67 and αΔCp=0.59). Molecular dynamics simulations showed that these pH modulation could be explained by the fluctuations of two regions, rich in electrostatic contacts, whose dynamics are pH-dependent and motions are strongly correlated. Results presented herein contribute to the understanding of the stability and dynamics of this frataxin variant, pointing to an intrinsic feature of the family topology to support different folding mechanism.

Read the entire article HERE

Nrf2 Induction Re-establishes a Proper Neuronal Differentiation Program in Friedreich's Ataxia Neural Stem Cells

This paper describes impairments in proliferation, stemness potential and differentiation in neural stem cells (NSCs) isolated from the embryonic cortex of the Frataxin Knockin/Knockout (KI/KO) mouse, a disease animal model whose slow-evolving phenotype makes it suitable to study pre-symptomatic defects that may manifest before the clinical onset. We demonstrate that enhancing the expression and activity of the antioxidant response master regulator Nrf2 ameliorates the phenotypic defects observed in NSCs, re-establishing a proper differentiation program.

Read the entire article HERE

Physiologically relevant reconstitution of iron-sulfur cluster biosynthesis uncovers persulfide-processing functions of ferredoxin-2 and frataxin

Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are essential protein cofactors whose biosynthetic defects lead to severe diseases among which is Friedreich's ataxia caused by impaired expression of frataxin (FXN). Fe-S clusters are biosynthesized on the scaffold protein ISCU, with cysteine desulfurase NFS1 providing sulfur as persulfide and ferredoxin FDX2 supplying electrons, in a process stimulated by FXN but not clearly understood. Here, the authors report the breakdown of this process, made possible by removing a zinc ion in ISCU that hinders iron insertion and promotes non-physiological Fe-S cluster synthesis from free sulfide in vitro. By binding zinc-free ISCU, iron drives persulfide uptake from NFS1 and allows persulfide reduction into sulfide by FDX2, thereby coordinating sulfide production with its availability to generate Fe-S clusters. FXN stimulates the whole process by accelerating persulfide transfer. The authors propose that this reconstitution recapitulates physiological conditions which provides a model for Fe-S cluster biosynthesis, clarifies the roles of FDX2 and FXN and may help develop Friedreich's ataxia therapies.

Based on these new findings, FARA recently awarded grant funding to this team of researchers to begin a drug discovery project to try to identify molecules that might be able to replace or substitute for frataxin.
To view this specific Grant Award - Click HERE - then expand [Drug Discovery] and scroll down a bit.

Read the entire article HERE

Exploring iron-binding to human frataxin and to selected Friedreich ataxia mutants by means of NMR and EPR spectroscopies

The neurodegenerative disease Friedreich ataxia results from a deficiency of frataxin, a mitochondrial protein. Most patients have a GAA expansion in the first intron of both alleles of frataxin gene, whereas a minority of them are heterozygous for the expansion and contain a mutation in the other allele. Frataxin has been claimed to participate in iron homeostasis and biosynthesis of FeS clusters, however its role in both pathways is not unequivocally defined. In this work we combined different advanced spectroscopic analyses to explore the iron-binding properties of human frataxin, as isolated and at the FeS clusters assembly machinery. For the first time we used EPR spectroscopy to address this key issue providing clear evidence of the formation of a complex with a low symmetry coordination of the metal ion. By 2D NMR, we confirmed that iron can be bound in both oxidation states, a controversial issue, and, in addition, we were able to point out a transient interaction of frataxin with a N-terminal 6his-tagged variant of ISCU, the scaffold protein of the FeS clusters assembly machinery. To obtain insights on structure/function relationships relevant to understand the disease molecular mechanism(s), we extended our studies to four clinical frataxin mutants. All variants showed a moderate to strong impairment in their ability to activate the FeS cluster assembly machinery in vitro, while keeping the same iron-binding features of the wild type protein. This supports the multifunctional nature of frataxin and the complex biochemical consequences of its mutations.

Read the entire article HERE

Low frataxin mRNA expression is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes

The mitochondrial protein frataxin is involved in iron metabolism, as well as regulation of oxidative stress. To elucidate the association of frataxin with the pathophysiology of diabetes, we evaluated the mRNA levels of frataxin in leukocytes of patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). In addition, we investigated the relation between frataxin mRNA levels, inflammatory cytokines, and oxidative stress biomarkers. A study including 150 subjects (115 patients with T2D and 35 healthy subjects) was performed to evaluate the frataxin mRNA levels in leukocytes. We assessed the relation between frataxin and interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), total oxidation status (TOS), total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and serum iron. The frataxin mRNA levels in the T2D group were significantly lower than those in healthy subjects. It was also demonstrated that T2D patients with frataxin mRNA levels in the lowest quartile had significantly elevated levels of serum iron, TOS, and inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, IL-1, and IL-6, while TAC levels were significantly lower in this quartile when compared to the upper quartile. Our findings showed that T2D patients with low frataxin mRNA levels showed a high degree of inflammation and oxidative stress. It is speculated that frataxin deficiency in T2D patients can contribute to the imbalance in mitochondrial iron homeostasis leading to the acceleration of oxidative stress and inflammation.

Read the entire article HERE

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