POLG-related disorders and their neurological manifestations

Nat Rev Neurol. 2019 Jan;15(1):40-52. doi: 10.1038/s41582-018-0101-0.


The POLG gene encodes the mitochondrial DNA polymerase that is responsible for replication of the mitochondrial genome. Mutations in POLG can cause early childhood mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion syndromes or later-onset syndromes arising from mtDNA deletions. POLG mutations are the most common cause of inherited mitochondrial disorders, with as many as 2% of the population carrying these mutations. POLG-related disorders comprise a continuum of overlapping phenotypes with onset from infancy to late adulthood. The six leading disorders caused by POLG mutations are Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome, which is one of the most severe phenotypes; childhood myocerebrohepatopathy spectrum, which presents within the first 3 years of life; myoclonic epilepsy myopathy sensory ataxia; ataxia neuropathy spectrum; autosomal recessive progressive external ophthalmoplegia; and autosomal dominant progressive external ophthalmoplegia. This Review describes the clinical features, pathophysiology, natural history and treatment of POLG-related disorders, focusing particularly on the neurological manifestations of these conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Polymerase gamma / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / diagnosis
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics*


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