Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons are among the cellular types most affected in the early stages of FA. However, its effect on mitochondrial function remains to be elucidated. In the present study, the author found that in primary cultures of DRG neurons as well as in DRGs from the FXNI151F mouse model, frataxin deficiency resulted in lower activity and levels of the electron transport complexes, mainly complexes I and II. In addition, altered mitochondrial morphology, indicative of degeneration was observed in DRGs from FXNI151F mice. Moreover, the NAD+/NADH ratio was reduced and sirtuin activity was impaired. Alpha tubulin was identified as the major acetylated protein from DRG homogenates whose levels were increased in FXNI151F mice compared to WT mice. In the mitochondria, superoxide dismutase (SOD2), a SirT3 substrate, displayed increased acetylation in frataxin-deficient DRG neurons. Since SOD2 acetylation inactivates the enzyme, and higher levels of mitochondrial superoxide anion were detected, oxidative stress markers were analyzed. Elevated levels of hydroxynonenal bound to proteins and mitochondrial Fe2+ accumulation was detected when frataxin decreased. Honokiol, a SirT3 activator, restores mitochondrial respiration, decreases SOD2 acetylation and reduces mitochondrial superoxide levels. Altogether, these results provide data at the molecular level of the consequences of electron transport chain dysfunction, which starts negative feedback, contributing to neuron lethality. This is especially important in sensory neurons which have greater susceptibility to frataxin deficiency compared to other tissues.

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