Evaluating the efficacy of vatiquinone in preclinical models of mitochondrial disease

Ernst-Bernhard Kayser, Yihan Chen, Michael Mulholland, Vivian Truong, Katerina James, Allison Hanaford, Simon Johnson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Genetic mitochondrial diseases are a major challenge in modern medicine, impacting around 1:4,000 individuals. Leigh syndrome is the most common pediatric presentation of mitochondrial disease. There are currently no effective clinical treatments for mitochondrial disease. In humans, patients are often treated with antioxidants, vitamins, and strategies targeting energetics. The vitamin-E related compound vatiquinone (EPI-743, α-tocotrienol quinone) has been the subject of at least 19 clinical trials in the US since 2012, but the effects of vatiquinone on an animal model of mitochondrial disease have not yet been reported. Here, assessed the impact of vatiquinone on disease progression and in two animal models of mitochondrial disease.

The efficacy of vatiquinone in vitro was assessed using human fibroblasts treated with the general mitochondrial oxidative stress inducer paraquat, the GPX4 inhibitor RSL3, or the glutathione synthase inhibitor BSO in combination with excess iron. The therapeutic potential of vatiquinone in vivo was assessed using tamoxifen-induced mouse model for GPX4 deficiency and the Ndufs4 knockout mouse model of Leigh syndrome. In both models, animals were treated daily with vatiquinone or vehicle and relevant disease endpoints were assessed.

Vatiquinone robustly prevented death in cultured cells induced by RSL3 or BSO/iron, but had no effect on paraquat induced cell death. Vatiquinone had no impact on disease onset, progression, or survival in either the tamoxifen-inducible GPX4 deficient model or the Ndufs4(-/-) mouse model, though the drug may have reduced seizure risk.

Vatiquinone provided no benefit to survival in two mouse models of disease, but may prevent seizures in the Ndufs4(-/-) model. Our findings are consistent with recent press statements regarding clinical trial results and have implications for drug trial design and reporting in patients with rare diseases.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherResearch Square
Number of pages20
Publication statusSubmitted - 1 Apr 2024

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