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Mice harboring the FXN I151F pathological point mutation present decreased frataxin levels, a Friedreich ataxia-like phenotype, and mitochondrial alterations.

Some FA patients present a GAA expansion in one allele and a missense mutation in the other allele. One of these mutations, FXNI154F, was reported to result in decreased content of mature frataxin and increased presence of an insoluble intermediate proteoform in cellular models. By introducing this mutation into the murine Fxn gene (I151F, equivalent to human I154F) these investigators have now analyzed the consequences of this pathological point mutation in vivo. FXNI151F homozygous mice present low frataxin levels in all tissues, with no evidence of insoluble proteoforms. Moreover, they display neurological deficits resembling those observed in FA patients. Biochemical analysis of heart, cerebrum and cerebellum have revealed decreased content of components from OXPHOS complexes I and II, decreased aconitase activity, and alterations in antioxidant defenses. These mitochondrial alterations are more marked in the nervous system than in heart, precede the appearance of neurological symptoms, and are similar to those observed in other FA models. The authors conclude that the primary pathological mechanism underlying the I151F mutation is frataxin deficiency, like in patients carrying GAA expansions. Therefore, patients carrying the I154F mutation would benefit from frataxin replacement therapies. Furthermore, the results also show that the FXNI151F mouse is an excellent tool for analyzing tissue-specific consequences of frataxin deficiency and for testing new therapies.

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