Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome

Pediatr Neurol. 2013 Mar;48(3):167-78. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2012.09.014.


Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome is an uncommon mitochondrial disease most often associated with mutations in the mitochondrial DNA replicase, polymerase-γ. Alterations in enzyme activity result in reduced levels or deletions in mitochondrial DNA. Phenotypic manifestations occur when the functional content of mitochondrial DNA reaches a critical nadir. The tempo of disease progression and onset varies among patients, even in identical genotypes. The classic clinical triad of seizures, liver degeneration, and progressive developmental regression helps define the disorder, but a wide range of clinical expression occurs. The majority of patients are healthy before disease onset, and seizures herald the disorder in most patients. Seizures can rapidly progress to medical intractability, with frequent episodes of epilepsia partialis continua or status epilepticus. Liver involvement may precede or occur after seizure onset. Regardless, eventual liver failure is common. Both the tempo of disease progression and range of organ involvement vary from patient to patient, and are only partly explained by pathogenic effects of genetic mutations. Diagnosis involves the constellation of organ involvement, not the sequence of signs. This disorder is relentlessly progressive and ultimately fatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / diagnosis*
  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / genetics
  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / complications
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / genetics
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Liver Failure / complications
  • Liver Failure / genetics
  • Liver Failure / pathology*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Status Epilepticus / complications
  • Status Epilepticus / genetics
  • Status Epilepticus / pathology*