SS-31 efficacy in a mouse model of Friedreich ataxia by upregulation of frataxin expression

Hum Mol Genet. 2021 Dec 27;31(2):176-188. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddab232.


Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is a serious hereditary neurodegenerative disease, mostly accompanied with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, caused by the reduced expression of frataxin (FXN). However, there is still no effective treatment. Our previous studies have shown that SS-31, a mitochondrion-targeted peptide, is capable to upregulate the expression of FXN and improve the mitochondrial function in cells derived from FRDA patients. To further explore the potential of SS-31, we used the GAA expansion-based models, including Y47 and YG8R (Fxn KIKO) mice, primary neurons and macrophages from the mice and cells derived from FRDA patients. After once-daily intraperitoneal injection of 1 mg/kg SS-31 for 1 month, we observed the significant improvement of motor function. The vacuolation in dorsal root ganglia, lesions in dentate nuclei and the lost thickness of myelin sheath of spinal cord were all repaired after SS-31 treatment. In addition, the hypertrophic cardiomyocytes and disarrayed abnormal Purkinje cells were dramatically reduced. Interestingly, we found that SS-31 treatment upregulated FXN expression not only at the translational levels as observed in cell culture but also at mRNA levels in vivo. Consequently, mitochondrial morphology and function were greatly improved in all tested tissues. Importantly, our data provided additional evidence that the maintenance of the therapeutic benefits needed continuous drug administration. Taken together, our findings have demonstrated the effectiveness of SS-31 treatment through the upregulation of FXN in vivo and offer guidance of the potential usage in the clinical application for FRDA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Frataxin
  • Friedreich Ataxia* / complications
  • Friedreich Ataxia* / drug therapy
  • Friedreich Ataxia* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / complications
  • Up-Regulation


  • Iron-Binding Proteins