Biallelic variants in PITRM1 are associated with a slowly progressive syndrome characterized by intellectual disability, spinocerebellar ataxia, cognitive decline and psychosis. The pitrilysin metallopeptidase 1 (PITRM1) is a mitochondrial matrix enzyme, which digests diverse oligopeptides, including the mitochondrial targeting sequences (MTS) that are cleaved from proteins imported across the inner mitochondrial membrane by the mitochondrial processing peptidase (MPP). Mitochondrial peptidases also play a role in the maturation of Frataxin, the protein affected in Friedreich's ataxia. Recent studies in yeast indicated that the mitochondrial matrix protease Ste23, which is a homologue of the human insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), cooperates with Cym1 (homologue of PITRM1) to ensure the proper functioning of the preprotein processing machinery. In humans, IDE could be upregulated by Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma (PPARG) agonists. The authors investigated preprotein processing, mitochondrial membrane potential and MTS degradation in control and patients' fibroblasts, and evaluated the pharmacological effect of the PPARG agonist Pioglitazone on mitochondrial proteostasis. PITRM1 dysfunction results in the accumulation of MTS, leading to the disruption and dissipation of the mitochondrial membrane potential. This triggers a feedback inhibition of MPP activity, consequently impairing the processing and maturation of Frataxin. Furthermore, the pharmacological stimulation of PPARG by Pioglitazone upregulates IDE and also PITRM1 protein levels restoring the presequence processing machinery and improving Frataxin maturation and mitochondrial function. These findings provide mechanistic insights and suggest a potential pharmacological strategy for this rare neurodegenerative mitochondrial disease.

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