Leigh and Leigh-like syndrome in children and adults

Pediatr Neurol. 2008 Oct;39(4):223-35. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2008.07.013.


Leigh syndrome (also termed subacute, necrotizing encephalopathy) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by almost identical brain changes, e.g., focal, bilaterally symmetric lesions, particularly in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and brainstem, but with considerable clinical and genetic heterogeneity. Clinically, Leigh syndrome is characterized by a wide variety of abnormalities, from severe neurologic problems to a near absence of abnormalities. Most frequently the central nervous system is affected, with psychomotor retardation, seizures, nystagmus, ophthalmoparesis, optic atrophy, ataxia, dystonia, or respiratory failure. Some patients also present with peripheral nervous system involvement, including polyneuropathy or myopathy, or non-neurologic abnormalities, e.g., diabetes, short stature, hypertrichosis, cardiomyopathy, anemia, renal failure, vomiting, or diarrhea (Leigh-like syndrome). In the majority of cases, onset is in early childhood, but in a small number of cases, adults are affected. In the majority of cases, dysfunction of the respiratory chain (particularly complexes I, II, IV, or V), of coenzyme Q, or of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex are responsible for the disease. Associated mutations affect genes of the mitochondrial or nuclear genome. Leigh syndrome and Leigh-like syndrome are the mitochondrial disorders with the largest genetic heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Leigh Disease / pathology
  • Leigh Disease / physiopathology*
  • Movement Disorders / pathology
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Disorders / pathology
  • Psychomotor Disorders / physiopathology*