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Scientific News

FARA funds research progress

In this section, you will find the most recent FA research publications, many of which are funded by FARA, as well as information on upcoming conferences and symposiums. You can search for articles by date using the archive box in the right hand column. To locate FARA Funded or Supported Research, click the hyperlink in the right hand column. You may also search for specific content using key words or phrases in the search button at the top right of your screen. Please be sure to visit other key research sections of our website for information on FARA’s Grant Program and the Treatment Pipeline.

Iron-Sulfur Cluster Complex Assembly in the Mitochondria of Arabidopsis thaliana

In plants, the cysteine desulfurase (AtNFS1) and frataxin (AtFH) are involved in the formation of Fe-S groups in mitochondria, specifically, in Fe and sulfur loading onto scaffold proteins, and the subsequent formation of the mature Fe-S cluster. This study found that the small mitochondrial chaperone, AtISD11, and AtFH are positive regulators for AtNFS1 activity in Arabidopsis. Moreover, when the three proteins were incubated together, a stronger attenuation of the Fenton reaction was observed compared to that observed with AtFH alone. Using pull-down assays, the authors found that these three proteins physically interact, and sequence alignment and docking studies showed that several amino acid residues reported as critical for the interaction of their human homologous are conserved. These results suggest that AtFH, AtNFS1 and AtISD11 form a multiprotein complex that could be involved in different stages of the iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) pathway in plant mitochondria.

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Molecular and Cellular Substrates for the Friedreich Ataxia. Significance of Contactin Expression and of Antioxidant Administration

This study explores the neural phenotype in rodent models of the spinocerebellar disorder Friedreich Ataxia (FA). The M12 mouse line, bearing a mutation that disrupts the Frataxin gene exon 4 was used, together with the M02 line, which, in addition, is hemizygous for the human Frataxin gene carrying 82-190 GAA repeats within its first intron (Pook transgene). The mutant mice phenotype was compared to the one of wild type littermates in regions undergoing differential profiles of neurogenesis, including the cerebellar cortex and the spinal cord by using neuronal (β-tubulin) and glial (Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein) markers as well as the Contactin 1 axonal glycoprotein, involved in neurite growth control. Morphological/morphometric analyses revealed that in Frataxin mutant mice a reduction of β-tubulin immunostaining was observed, together with glial upregulation. Furthermore, Contactin 1 downregulation suggested that changes in the expression of this gene contributed to the pathogenesis. Therefore, the FA phenotype implies an alteration of the developmental profile of neuronal and glial precursors. Finally, epigallocatechin gallate polyphenol administration counteracted the disorder, indicating protective effects of antioxidant administration.

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HDAC3 deacetylates the DNA mismatch repair factor MutSβ to stimulate triplet repeat expansions

Trinucleotide repeat (TNR) expansions cause nearly 20 severe human neurological diseases which are currently untreatable. For some of these diseases, ongoing somatic expansions accelerate disease progression and may influence age of onset. This new knowledge emphasizes the importance of understanding the protein factors that drive expansions. Recent genetic evidence indicates that the mismatch repair factor MutSβ (Msh2-Msh3 complex) and the histone deacetylase HDAC3 function in the same pathway to drive triplet repeat expansions. Here the authors tested the hypothesis that HDAC3 deacetylates MutSβ and thereby activates it to drive expansions. The HDAC3-selective inhibitor RGFP966 was used to examine its biological and biochemical consequences in human tissue culture cells. HDAC3 inhibition efficiently suppresses repeat expansion without impeding canonical mismatch repair activity. Five key lysine residues in Msh3 are direct targets of HDAC3 deacetylation. In cells expressing Msh3 in which these lysine residues are mutated to arginine, the inhibitory effect of RGFP966 on expansions is largely bypassed, consistent with the direct deacetylation hypothesis. RGFP966 treatment does not alter MutSβ subunit abundance or complex formation but does partially control its subcellular localization. Deacetylation sites in Msh3 overlap a nuclear localization signal, and we show that localization of MutSβ is partially dependent on HDAC3 activity. Together, these results indicate that MutSβ is a key target of HDAC3 deacetylation and provide insights into an innovative regulatory mechanism for triplet repeat expansions. The results suggest expansion activity may be druggable and support HDAC3-selective inhibition as an attractive therapy in some triplet repeat expansion diseases.

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Plasma and red blood cell membrane accretion and pharmacokinetics of RT001 (bis-allylic 11,11-D2-linoleic acid ethyl ester) during long term dosing in patients

RT001 is the di-deutero isotopologue of linoleic acid ethyl ester (D2-LA). Resistance to oxidative damage at the carbon-deuterium bond depends upon the concentration of D2-LA as a percentage of total LA. This study reports on the plasma and red cell (RBC) pharmacokinetics (PK) of D2-LA, and its metabolite 13,13-D2-arachidonic acid (D2-AA), in patients with multiple neurodegenerative diseases (total of 59 participants). In Friedreich's ataxia patients, D2-LA was absorbed and transported similarly to dietary LA, peaking at about 6 h after oral dosing. Plasma D2-LA concentrations approached steady state after 28 days of dosing. After 6 months of daily dosing in subjects with other disorders, D2-LA and D2-AA levels were at or above the 20% of total (D2-LA/ total LA, or D2-AA/ total AA) therapeutic targets for most subjects. The authors conclude that chronic dosing of RT001 and associated dietary guidance can be maintained over many months to achieve target plasma and RBC levels, forming a basis for therapeutic dosing across a broad range of conditions. RT001 has been safe and well-tolerated in 59 different participants treated across 10 different neurodegenerative diseases in multiple clinical trials for up to 36 months with no significant drug related adverse events limiting use.

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The Friedreich’s Ataxia Accelerator will apply genomics tools to promote discovery of new treatments

A new research and drug discovery effort at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, The Friedreich's Ataxia Accelerator, will help build a community of researchers at Broad focused on learning more about the molecular mechanisms underlying FA with the ultimate goal of developing therapeutic strategies for the disorder.

FARA is excited to have the Broad Institute investigators on our team applying novel ideas and technologies and bringing new expertise to the FA research community. We believe that building a collaborative community of partners and investing in research are essential for the discovery of treatments for FA.

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