Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease. The mutation consists of a GAA repeat expansion within the FXN gene, which downregulates frataxin, leading to abnormal mitochondrial iron accumulation, which may in turn cause changes in mitochondrial function. Although, many studies of FRDA patients and mouse models have been conducted in the past two decades, the role of frataxin in mitochondrial pathophysiology remains elusive. Are the mitochondrial abnormalities only a side effect of the increased accumulation of reactive iron, generating oxidative stress? Or does the progressive lack of iron-sulphur clusters (ISCs), induced by reduced frataxin, cause an inhibition of the electron transport chain complexes (CI, II and III) leading to reactive oxygen species escaping from oxidative phosphorylation reactions? To answer these crucial questions, we have characterised the mitochondrial pathophysiology of a group of disease-relevant and readily accessible neurons, cerebellar granule cells, from a validated FRDA mouse model.
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