Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease caused by mutations in Frataxin (FXN). Loss of FXN causes impaired mitochondrial function and iron homeostasis. An elevated production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was previously proposed to contribute to the pathogenesis of FRDA. We recently showed that loss of frataxin homolog (fh), a Drosophila homolog of FXN, causes a ROS independent neurodegeneration in flies (Chen et al., 2016). In fh mutants, iron accumulation in the nervous system enhances the synthesis of sphingolipids, which in turn activates 3-phosphoinositide dependent protein kinase-1 (Pdk1) and myocyte enhancer factor-2 (Mef2) to trigger neurodegeneration of adult photoreceptors.
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