Frataxin gene (FXN) expression is reduced in Friedreich's ataxia patients due to an increase in the number of GAA trinucleotides in intron 1. The frataxin protein, encoded by that gene, plays an important role in mitochondria's iron metabolism. This group used a gene editing technology, platinum TALE (plTALE) proteins that target the regulatory region of the FXN gene, fused with a transcriptional activator (TA). These were used to increase the expression of frataxin. They looked at a series of possible combinations of molecules. This permitted selection of 3 constructs that increased FXN gene expression by up to 19-fold in different Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) primary fibroblasts. Adeno-associated viruses were used to deliver the best effectors to the YG8R mouse model to validate their efficiencies in vivo. Our results showed that these selected constructs induced transcriptional activity of the endogenous FXN gene as well as expression of the frataxin protein in YG8R mouse heart by 10-fold and in skeletal muscles by up to 35-fold. The aconitase activity was positively modulated by the frataxin level in mitochondria, and it was, thus, increased in vitro and in vivo by the increased frataxin expression.
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