TAT-Mediated Delivery of Frataxin for Friedreichs Ataxia

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The goal of this translational research project is the preclinical development of a novel therapy for Friedreich's Ataxia (FA). FA is the most common human ataxia and results from inadequate production of the Frataxin protein most often due to a triplet expansion in the nuclear FRDA gene. The gene cannot be translated. Frataxin is an iron-binding protein targeted to the mitochondrial matrix. In its absence, iron accumulation in mitochondria causes oxidant stress destroying mitochondrial and nuclear function. Progressive ataxia and cardiomyopathy are prominent clinical findings with early death from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Experiments in cell culture have shown that replacement of the FRDA gene can restore mitochondrial function indicating that if Frataxin can be produced, the cell will be rescued. To overcome the limitations of viral vectors for delivering gene products to mitochondria inside of cells, we will use protein transduction domains (PTD) that cross cell membranes. We have recently shown that the Transactivator of Transcription (TAT) peptide from the human immunodeficiency virus can deliver proteins to mitochondria. We have further developed methods to localize these proteins to mitochondria by including a mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) in the fusion protein construct. Our preliminary data shows that a TAT-Frataxin fusion protein crosses both cell and mitochondrial membranes and is localized because the MTS is recognized and cleaved leaving the fusion protein trapped in the mitochondria. This 2 year project will: 1) Develop and test TAT-Frataxin fusion proteins using both cells in culture, and normal mice, for correct localization, processing, and assembly. The most efficient fusion construct for the Frataxin protein will be determined (year 1). 2) Show that TAT-Frataxin can rescue the phenotype of fibroblast cells in culture from FRDA patients (year 1). 3) Show that TAT-Frataxin can rescue the phenotype of an animal model transgenic for conditional loss of the FRDA gene in heart and brain (year 2). These mice are now in hand. The long term goal of this project is the development of a novel technology supporting therapy development for FA. The identification of this candidate therapeutic will allow preclinical evaluation of the strategy in an animal model of FA and will be used to establish a larger multidisciplinary team approach for treatment of this disease through use of the U01, or other, funding mechanism (PAR-02-139).
Effective start/end date5/2/064/30/09


  • National Institutes of Health: $175,172.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $159,056.00


  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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