Journal Article

Clinical, biochemical and molecular genetic correlations in Friedreich’s ataxia

J.L. Bradley, J.C. Blake, S. Chamberlain, P.K. Thomas, J.M. Cooper and A.H.V. Schapira

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 9, issue 2, pages 275-282
Published in print January 2000 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online January 2000 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI:
Clinical, biochemical and molecular genetic correlations in Friedreich’s ataxia

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Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive disorder with a frequency of 1 in 50 000 live births. In 97% of patients it is caused by the abnormal expansion of a GAA repeat in intron 1 of the FRDA gene on chromosome 9, which encodes a 210 amino acid protein called frataxin. Frataxin is widely expressed and has been localized to mitochondria although its function is unknown. We have investigated mitochondrial function, mitochondrial DNA levels, aconitase activity and iron content in tissues from FRDA patients. There were significant reductions in the activities of complex I, complex II/III and aconitase in FRDA heart. Respiratory chain and aconitase activities were decreased although not significantly in skeletal muscle, but were normal in FRDA cerebellum and dorsal root ganglia, although there was a mild decrease in aconitase activity in the latter. Mitochondrial DNA levels were reduced in FRDA heart and skeletal muscle, although in skeletal muscle this was paralleled by a decline in citrate synthase activity. Increased iron deposition was seen in FRDA heart, liver and spleen in a pattern consistent with a mitochondrial location. The iron accumulation, mitochondrial respiratory chain and aconitase dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA depletion in FRDA heart samples largely paralleled those in the yeast YFH1 knockout model, suggesting that frataxin may be involved in mitochondrial iron regulation or iron sulphur centre synthesis. However, the severe deficiency in aconitase activity also suggests that oxidant stress may induce a self-amplifying cycle of oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction, which may contribute to cellular toxicity.

Journal Article.  4216 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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