Friedreich ataxia (FA) is a cardioneurodegenerative disease caused by deficient frataxin expression. This mitochondrial protein has been related to iron homeostasis, energy metabolism, and oxidative stress. Previously, the authors set up a cardiac cellular model of FA based on neonatal rat cardiac myocytes (NRVM) and lentivirus-mediated frataxin RNA interference. These frataxin-deficient NRVMs presented lipid droplet accumulation, mitochondrial swelling and signs of oxidative stress. Therefore, the authors decided to explore the presence of protein thiol modifications in this model. With this purpose, reduced glutathione (GSH) levels were measured and the presence of glutathionylated proteins was analyzed. The authors observed decreased GSH content and increased presence of glutathionylated actin in frataxin-deficient NRVMs. Moreover, the presence of oxidized cysteine residues was investigated using the thiol-reactive fluorescent probe iodoacetamide-Bodipy and 2D-gel electrophoresis. With this approach, the authors identified two proteins with altered redox status in frataxin-deficient NRVMs: electron transfer flavoprotein-ubiquinone oxidoreductase and dihydrolipoyl dehydrogenase (DLDH). As DLDH is involved in protein-bound lipoic acid redox cycling, we analyzed the redox state of this cofactor and we observed that lipoic acid from pyruvate dehydrogenase was more oxidized in frataxin-deficient cells. Also, by targeted proteomics, we observed a decreased content on the PDH A1 subunit from pyruvate dehydrogenase. Finally, we analyzed the consequences of supplementing frataxin-deficient NRVMs with the PDH cofactors thiamine and lipoic acid, the PDH activator dichloroacetate and the antioxidants N-acetyl cysteine and Tiron. Both dichloroacetate and Tiron were able to partially prevent lipid droplet accumulation in these cells. Overall, these results indicate that frataxin-deficient NRVMs present an altered thiol-redox state which could contribute to the cardiac pathology.
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