Polymerase gamma deficiency (POLG): clinical course in a child with a two stage evolution from infantile myocerebrohepatopathy spectrum to an Alpers syndrome and neuropathological findings of Leigh's encephalopathy

Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2012 Sep;16(5):542-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpn.2012.01.013. Epub 2012 Feb 17.


Aims: Description of the clinical course in a child compound heterozygous for POLG1 mutations, neuropathology findings and results of dietary treatment based on fasting avoidance and long chain triglycerides (LCT) restriction.

Results: At 3(1/2) months of age the patient presented with severe hypoglycemia, hyperlactatemia, moderate ketosis and hepatic failure. Fasting hypoglycemia occurred 8 h after meals. The hypoglycemia did not respond to glucagon. She was supplemented with IV glucose and/or frequent feedings, but developed liver insufficiency which was reversed by long-chain triglyceride (LCT) restriction. Alpha-foeto-protein (AFP) levels were elevated and returned to low values after dietary treatment. Liver biopsy displayed cirrhosis, bile ductular proliferation, steatosis, isolated complex IV defect in part of the liver mitochondria, and mitochondrial DNA depletion (27% of control values). Two heterozygous mutations (p. [Ala467Thr] + p. [Gly848Ser]) were found in the POLG1 gene. At 3 years of age she progressively developed refractory mixed type seizures including a focal component and psychomotor regression which fulfilled the criteria of Alpers syndrome (AS) although the initial presentation was compatible with infantile myocerebrohepatopathy spectrum (MCHS). She died at 5 years of age of respiratory insufficiency. Neuropathologic investigation revealed lesions in the right striatal area and the inferior colliculi typical for Leigh's encephalopathy.

Conclusion: The present patient showed an evolution from infantile MCHS to AS, and dietary treatment seemed to slow the progression of liver failure. In spite of the late clinical features of AS, it extends the neuropathological spectrum of AS and polymerase gamma deficiency (POLG) to Leigh syndrome lesions.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / deficiency*
  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / genetics*
  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / genetics
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leigh Disease / genetics*
  • Leigh Disease / pathology
  • Liver Failure / genetics*
  • Liver Failure / pathology
  • Mutation


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • POLG protein, human