Apoptotic cell death and altered calcium homeostasis caused by frataxin depletion in dorsal root ganglia neurons can be prevented by BH4 domain of Bcl-xL protein

Stefka Tasheva, Elia Obis, Jordi Tamarit, Joaquim Ros

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a decreased expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. Major neurological symptoms of the disease are due to degeneration of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons. In this study we have explored the neurodegenerative events occurring by frataxin depletion on primary cultures of neurons obtained from rat DRGs. Reduction of 80% of frataxin levels in these cells was achieved by transduction with lentivirus containing shRNA silencing sequences. Frataxin depletion caused mitochondrial membrane potential decrease, neurite degeneration and apoptotic cell death. A marked increase of free intracellular Ca(2+) levels and alteration in Ca(2+)-mediated signaling pathways was also observed, thus suggesting that altered calcium homeostasis can play a pivotal role in neurodegeneration caused by frataxin deficiency. These deleterious effects were reverted by the addition of a cell-penetrant TAT peptide coupled to the BH4, the anti-apoptotic domain of Bcl-x(L). Treatment of cultured frataxin-depleted neurons with TAT-BH4 was able to restore the free intracellular Ca(2+) levels and protect the neurons from degeneration. These observations open the possibility of new therapies of FRDA based on modulating the Ca(2+) signaling and prevent apoptotic process to protect DRG neurons from neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1841
Number of pages13
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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