Clinical spectrum of POLR3-related leukodystrophy caused by biallelic POLR1C pathogenic variants

Neurol Genet. 2019 Oct 30;5(6):e369. doi: 10.1212/NXG.0000000000000369. eCollection 2019 Dec.


Objective: To determine the clinical, radiologic, and molecular characteristics of RNA polymerase III-related leukodystrophy (POLR3-HLD) caused by biallelic POLR1C pathogenic variants.

Methods: A cross-sectional observational study involving 25 centers worldwide was conducted. Clinical and molecular information was collected on 23 unreported and previously reported patients with POLR3-HLD and biallelic pathogenic variants in POLR1C. Brain MRI studies were reviewed.

Results: Fourteen female and 9 male patients aged 7 days to 23 years were included in the study. Most participants presented early in life (birth to 6 years), and motor deterioration was seen during childhood. A notable proportion of patients required a wheelchair before adolescence, suggesting a more severe phenotype than previously described in POLR3-HLD. Dental, ocular, and endocrine features were not invariably present (70%, 50%, and 50%, respectively). Five patients (22%) had a combination of hypomyelinating leukodystrophy and abnormal craniofacial development, including 1 individual with clear Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS) features. Brain MRI revealed hypomyelination in all cases, often with areas of pronounced T2 hyperintensity corresponding to T1 hypointensity of the white matter. Twenty-nine different pathogenic variants (including 12 new disease-causing variants) in POLR1C were identified.

Conclusions: This study provides a comprehensive description of POLR3-HLD caused by biallelic POLR1C pathogenic variants based on the largest cohort of patients to date. These results suggest distinct characteristics of POLR1C-related disorder, with a spectrum of clinical involvement characterized by hypomyelinating leukodystrophy with or without abnormal craniofacial development reminiscent of TCS.