Spectrum of neurological and survival outcomes in pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC) deficiency: lack of correlation with genotype

Mol Genet Metab. 2012 Nov;107(3):394-402. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2012.09.001. Epub 2012 Sep 7.


Pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC) deficiency is a relatively common mitochondrial disorder that primarily presents with neurological manifestations and lactic acidemia. We analyzed the clinical outcomes and neurological features of 59 consented symptomatic subjects (27 M, 32 F), who were confirmed to have PDC deficiency with defined mutations in one of the genes of PDC (PDHA1, n = 53; PDHB, n = 4; DLAT, n = 2), including 47 different mutations, of which 22 were novel, and for whom clinical records and/or structured interviews were obtained. 39% of these subjects (23/59) have died. Of these, 91% (21/23) died before age 4 years, 61% (14/23) before 1 year, and 43% (10/23) before 3 months. 56% of males died compared with 25% of females. Causes of death included severe lactic acidosis, respiratory failure, and infection. In subjects surviving past 6 months, a broad range of intellectual outcomes was observed. Of 42 subjects whose intellectual abilities were professionally evaluated, 19% had normal or borderline intellectual ability (CQ/IQ ≥ 70), 10% had mild intellectual disability (ID) (CQ/IQ 55-69), 17% had moderate ID (CQ/IQ 40-54), 24% had severe ID (CQ/IQ 25-39) and 33% had profound ID (CQ/IQ<25). Assessment by parents was comparable. Of 10 subjects who reached age 12 years, 9 had had professional IQ assessments, and only 4 had IQs ≥ 70 (only 2 of these 4 had assessments after age 12 years). The average outcome for females was severe-to-profound ID, whereas that of males was mild-to-moderate ID. Of subjects for whom specific neurological data were available, the majority had hypotonia (89%), and hypertonia or mixed hyper-/hypotonia (49%) were common. Seizures (57%), microcephaly (49%), and structural brain abnormalities including ventriculomegaly (67%) and agenesis, dysgenesis, or hypoplasia of the corpus callosum (55%) were common. Leigh syndrome was found in only 35%. Structural brain abnormalities were more common in females, and Leigh syndrome was more common in males. In a subgroup of 16 ambulatory subjects >3.5 years in whom balance was evaluated, ataxia was found in 13. Peripheral neuropathy was documented in 2 cases but not objectively evaluated in most subjects. Outcomes of this population with genetically confirmed PDC deficiency are heterogeneous and not distinctive. Correlations between specific genotypes and outcomes were not established. Although more females survive, related to the prevalence of X-linked PDHA1 mutations, symptomatic surviving females are generally more severely impaired cognitively and have a different pattern of neurological impairment compared to males. Neonatal or infant onset of symptoms was associated with poor outcomes. Males with PDHA1 mutations and low fibroblast PDC activity were less likely to survive beyond infancy. Recurrence rate in siblings of subjects with PDHA1 mutation was less than 5%. Paradoxically, in this retrospective review, potential factors considered possibly relevant to development, such as in vitro PDC activity, specific mutations, use of ketogenic diets, supplements, or medications, were generally not confirmed to be significantly correlated with objective outcomes of survival or neuro-cognitive function. Therefore, the basis of variability of these outcomes remains largely undetermined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autoantigens / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Dihydrolipoyllysine-Residue Acetyltransferase / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leigh Disease / genetics*
  • Leigh Disease / mortality
  • Leigh Disease / pathology
  • Male
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics*
  • Mutation*
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase (Lipoamide) / genetics*
  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex Deficiency Disease / genetics*
  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex Deficiency Disease / mortality
  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex Deficiency Disease / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Rate


  • Autoantigens
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase (Lipoamide)
  • pyruvate dehydrogenase E1alpha subunit
  • DLAT protein, human
  • Dihydrolipoyllysine-Residue Acetyltransferase