Friedreich ataxia is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by the expansion of GAA trinucleotide repeats within the first intron of the FXN gene, which encodes frataxin. The pathophysiology of the disease is thought to be derived from the decrease of Fe-S cluster biogenesis due to frataxin deficiency. There is currently no effective treatment for the disease. In our study, we demonstrated that treatment with the mitochondrion-targeted peptide SS-31 reduced frataxin deficiency-induced oxidative stress in lymphoblasts and fibroblasts derived from patients. Interestingly, SS-31 treatment translationally upregulated the protein level of frataxin in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, SS-31 treatment increased the enzymatic activities of the iron-sulphur enzymes, including aconitase and complex II and III of the respiratory chain. Further evaluation of the quality of mitochondria showed that mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP content, NAD+/NADH, and the morphology of mitochondria all improved. Our results suggest that SS-31 might potentially be a new drug for the early treatment of Friedreich ataxia.

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