Excision of the expanded GAA repeats corrects cardiomyopathy phenotypes of iPSC-derived Friedreich's ataxia cardiomyocytes

Jixue Li, Natalia Rozwadowska, Amanda Clark, Daniel Fil, Jill S. Napierala, Marek Napierala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Friedreich's ataxia is caused by large homozygous, intronic expansions of GAA repeats in the frataxin (FXN) gene, resulting in severe downregulation of its expression. Pathogenic repeats are located in intron one, hence patients express unaffected FXN protein, albeit in low quantities. Although FRDA symptoms typically afflict the nervous system, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the predominant cause of death. Our studies were conducted using cardiomyocytes differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from control individuals, FRDA patients, and isogenic cells corrected by zinc finger nucleases-mediated excision of pathogenic expanded GAA repeats. This correction of the FXN gene removed the primary trigger of the transcription defect, upregulated frataxin expression, reduced pathological lipid accumulation observed in patient cardiomyocytes, and reversed gene expression signatures of FRDA cardiomyocytes. Transcriptome analyses revealed hypertrophy-specific expression signatures unique to FRDA cardiomyocytes, and emphasized similarities between unaffected and ZFN-corrected FRDA cardiomyocytes. Thus, the iPSC-derived FRDA cardiomyocytes exhibit various molecular defects characteristic for cellular models of cardiomyopathy that can be corrected by genome editing of the expanded GAA repeats. These results underscore the utility of genome editing in generating isogenic cellular models of FRDA and the potential of this approach as a future therapy for this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101529
JournalStem Cell Research
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiomyocytes
  • Friedreich's ataxia
  • GAA repeats
  • Genome editing
  • Isogenic iPSC
  • Lipid metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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