Frataxin deficiency induces Schwann cell inflammation and death

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Nov;1792(11):1052-61. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2009.07.011. Epub 2009 Aug 10.


Mutations in the frataxin gene cause dorsal root ganglion demyelination and neurodegeneration, which leads to Friedreich's ataxia. However the consequences of frataxin depletion have not been measured in dorsal root ganglia or Schwann cells. We knocked down frataxin in several neural cell lines, including two dorsal root ganglia neural lines, 2 neuronal lines, a human oligodendroglial line (HOG) and multiple Schwann cell lines and measured cell death and proliferation. Only Schwann cells demonstrated a significant decrease in viability. In addition to the death of Schwann cells, frataxin decreased proliferation in Schwann, oligodendroglia, and slightly in one neural cell line. Thus the most severe effects of frataxin deficiency were on Schwann cells, which enwrap dorsal root ganglia neurons. Microarray of frataxin-deficient Schwann cells demonstrated strong activations of inflammatory and cell death genes including interleukin-6 and Tumor Necrosis Factor which were confirmed at the mRNA and protein levels. Frataxin knockdown in Schwann cells also specifically induced inflammatory arachidonate metabolites. Anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic drugs significantly rescued frataxin-dependent Schwann cell toxicity. Thus, frataxin deficiency triggers inflammatory changes and death of Schwann cells that is inhibitable by inflammatory and anti-apoptotic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Heredodegenerative Disorders, Nervous System / genetics
  • Heredodegenerative Disorders, Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Heredodegenerative Disorders, Nervous System / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Iron-Binding Proteins*
  • Mutation*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Schwann Cells


  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Iron-Binding Proteins
  • frataxin