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Mitochondrial Iron-Sulfur Cluster Biogenesis and Neurological Disorders

Iron-sulfur clusters (ISCs) are highly conserved moieties embedded into numerous crucial proteins in almost all bacteria, plants and mammals. As such, ISC biosynthesis is critical to cellular function. The pathway was first characterized in bacteria by the late 1990s, and over the subsequent 20 years there has been increasing understanding of its components in humans. Defects in ISC pathway components are now associated with many different human disease states, such as Friedreich ataxia and ISCU myopathy. Whilst the disorders have variable clinical features, most involve neurological phenotypes. There are common biochemical signatures in most of these conditions, as a lack of ISCs causes deficiencies of target proteins including Complex I, II and III, aconitase and lipoic acid. This review focuses on the disorders of ISC biogenesis that have been described in the literature to-date. Key clinical, biochemical and neuroradiological features will be discussed, providing a reference point for clinicians diagnosing and managing these patients. Therapies are mostly supportive at this stage. However, the improved understanding of the pathophysiology of these conditions could pave the way for disease-modifying therapies in the near future.

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