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FARA Funded Research

Your generous support has funded all the research listed below.

For more information on FARA-funded research & scientists, please visit FARA Supported Research, Active Clinical Trials and the Featured Scientist.

Mechanism of Action of 2-Aminobenzamide HDAC Inhibitors in Reversing Gene Silencing in Friedreich's Ataxia

The genetic defect in Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is the hyperexpansion of a GAA•TTC triplet in the first intron of the FXN gene, encoding the essential mitochondrial protein frataxin. Histone post-translational modifications near the expanded repeats are consistent with heterochromatin formation and consequent FXN gene silencing. Using a newly developed human neuronal cell model, derived from patient-induced pluripotent stem cells, we find that 2-aminobenzamide histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors increase FXN mRNA levels and frataxin protein in FRDA neuronal cells. However, only compounds targeting the class I HDACs 1 and 3 are active in increasing FXN mRNA in these cells. Structural analogs of the active HDAC inhibitors that selectively target either HDAC1 or HDAC3 do not show similar increases in FXN mRNA levels. To understand the mechanism of action of these compounds, we probed the kinetic properties of the active and inactive inhibitors, and found that only compounds that target HDACs 1 and 3 exhibited a slow-on/slow-off mechanism of action for the HDAC enzymes.

Read More: Mechanism of Action of 2-Aminobenzamide HDAC Inhibitors in Reversing Gene Silencing in Friedreich's Ataxia

Publication for open-label trial of Resveratrol in FA

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is due to a triplet repeat expansion in FXN, resulting in deficiency of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol, identified to increase frataxin expression in cellular and mouse models of FRDA and has anti-oxidant properties. This open-label, non-randomized trial evaluated the effect of two different doses of resveratrol on peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) frataxin levels over a 12-week period in individuals with FRDA. Secondary outcome measures included PMBC FXN mRNA, oxidative stress markers, and clinical measures of disease severity.

Read more: An open-label trial in Friedreich ataxia suggests clinical benefit with high-dose resveratrol, without effect on frataxin levels

Iron loading site on the Fe-S cluster assembly scaffold protein is distinct from the active site

Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster containing proteins are utilized in almost every biochemical pathway. The unique redox and coordination chemistry associated with the cofactor allows these proteins to participate in a diverse set of reactions, including electron transfer, enzyme catalysis, DNA synthesis and signaling within several pathways. Due to the high reactivity of the metal, it is not surprising that biological Fe-S cluster assembly is tightly regulated within cells. In yeast, the major assembly pathway for Fe-S clusters is the mitochondrial ISC pathway. Yeast Fe-S cluster assembly is accomplished using the scaffold protein (Isu1) as the molecular foundation, with assistance from the cysteine desulfurase (Nfs1) to provide sulfur, the accessory protein (Isd11) to regulate Nfs1 activity, the yeast frataxin homologue (Yfh1) to regulate Nfs1 activity and participate in Isu1 Fe loading possibly as a chaperone, and the ferredoxin (Yah1) to provide reducing equivalents for assembly.

Read More: Iron loading site on the Fe-S cluster assembly scaffold protein is distinct from the active site

Excision of expanded GAA repeats alleviates the molecular phenotype of Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurological disease caused by expansions of guanine-adenine-adenine (GAA) repeats in intron 1 of the frataxin (FXN) gene. The expansion results in significantly decreased frataxin expression. We report that human FRDA cells can be corrected by zinc finger nuclease-mediated excision of the expanded GAA repeats. Editing of a single expanded GAA allele created heterozygous, FRDA carrier-like cells and significantly increased frataxin expression. This correction persisted during reprogramming of zinc finger nuclease-edited fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells and subsequent differentiation into neurons. 

Read More: Excision of expanded GAA repeats alleviates the molecular phenotype of Friedreich's ataxia

The pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy in friedreich ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disease with a complex neurological phenotype, but the most common cause of death is heart failure. This study presents a systematic analysis of 15 fixed and 13 frozen archival autopsy tissues of FA hearts and 10 normal controls (8 frozen) by measurement of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy; tissue frataxin assay; X-ray fluorescence (XRF) of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in polyethylene glycol-embedded samples of left and right ventricular walls (LVW, RVW) and ventricular septum (VS); metal quantification in bulk digests by inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES); Fe histochemistry; and immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence of cytosolic and mitochondrial ferritins and of the inflammatory markers CD68 and hepcidin. 

Read More: The pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy in friedreich ataxia

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