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In vivo maturation of human frataxin.

Condo I., Ventura N., Malisan F., Rufini A., Tomassini B., Testi R.

The defective expression of frataxin causes the hereditary neurodegenerative disorder Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA). Human frataxin is synthesized as a 210 amino acid precursor protein, which needs proteolytic processing into mitochondria to be converted into the functional mature form. In vitro processing of human frataxin was previously described to yield a 155 amino acid mature form, corresponding to residues 56-210 (frataxin(56-210)). Here, we studied the maturation of frataxin by in vivo overexpression in human cells. Our data show that the main form of mature frataxin is generated by a proteolytic cleavage between Lys80 and Ser81, yielding a 130 amino acid protein (frataxin(81-210)). This maturation product corresponds to the endogenous frataxin detected in human heart, peripheral blood lymphocytes or dermal fibroblasts. Moreover, we demonstrate that frataxin(81-210) is biologically functional, as it rescues aconitase defects in frataxin-deficient cells derived from FRDA patients. Importantly, our data indicate that frataxin(56-210) can be produced in vivo when the primary 80-81 maturation site is unavailable, suggesting the existence of proteolytic mechanisms that can actively control the size of the mature product, with possible functional implications.

Hum. Mol. Genet. 16:1534-1540(2007) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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