The lack of frataxin induces the dysregulation of mitochondrial iron homeostasis and oxidative stress, which finally causes the neuronal death. The mechanism through which frataxin regulates the oxidative stress balance is rather complex and poorly understood. While the absence of human (Hfra) and yeast (Yfh1) frataxins renders cells sensitive to oxidative stress, this does not occur when the frataxin gene is knocked-out in E. coli. To better understand the biological roles of Hfra and Yfh1 as endogenous antioxidants, this group has studied their ability to inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) from Cu2+- and Fe3+-catalyzed degradation of ascorbic acid. Both proteins drastically reduce the formation of ROS, and during this process they are not oxidized. In addition, they have also demonstrated that merely the presence of Yfh1 or Hfra is enough to protect a highly oxidation-prone protein such as α-synuclein. This unspecific intervention (without a direct binding) suggests that frataxins could act as a shield to prevent the oxidation of a broad set of intracellular proteins and reinforces that idea that frataxin can be used to prevent neurological pathologies linked to an enhanced oxidative stress.
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