Endurance exercise is the most powerful intervention for promoting mitochondrial function; however, its impact on Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) has not been studied. Here the authors found that mice with genetic knockout and knock-in of the Fxn gene (KIKO mice) developed exercise intolerance, glucose intolerance and moderate cardiac dysfunction at 6 months of age. These abnormalities were associated with impaired mitochondrial respiratory function concurrent with reduced iron regulatory protein 1 (Irp1) expression as well as increased oxidative stress, which were not due to loss of mitochondrial content and antioxidant enzyme expression. Importantly, long-term (4 months) voluntary running in KIKO mice starting at a young age (2 months) completely prevented the functional abnormalities along with restored Irp1 expression, improved mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle without restoring Fxn expression. The authors conclude that endurance exercise training prevents symptomatic onset of FRDA in mice associated with improved mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative stress. These preclinical findings may pave the way for clinical studies of the impact of endurance exercise in FRDA patients.
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