PNPLA6 disorders: what's in a name?

Ophthalmic Genet. 2023 Dec;44(6):530-538. doi: 10.1080/13816810.2023.2254830. Epub 2023 Nov 20.


Background: Variants in the patatin-like phospholipase domain containing 6 (PNPLA6) gene cause a broad spectrum of neurological disorders characterized by gait disturbance, visual impairment, anterior hypopituitarism, and hair anomalies. This review examines the clinical, cellular, and biochemical features found across the five PNPLA6-related diseases, with a focus on future questions to be addressed.

Materials and methods: A literature review was performed on published clinical reports on patients with PNPLA6 variants. Additionally, in vitro and in vivo models used to study the encoded protein, Neuropathy Target Esterase (NTE), are summarized to lend mechanistic perspective to human diseases.

Results: Biallelic pathogenic PNPLA6 variants cause five systemic neurological disorders: spastic paraplegia type 39, Gordon-Holmes, Boucher-Neuhäuser, Laurence-Moon, and Oliver-McFarlane syndromes. PNPLA6 encodes NTE, an enzyme involved in maintaining phospholipid homeostasis and trafficking in the nervous system. Retinal disease presents with a unique chorioretinal dystrophy that is phenotypically similar to choroideremia and Leber congenital amaurosis. Animal and cellular models support a loss-of-function mechanism.

Conclusions: Clinicians should be aware of choroideremia-like ocular presentation in patients who also experience growth defects, motor dysfunction, and/or hair anomalies. Although NTE biochemistry is well characterized, further research on the relationship between genotype and the presence or absence of retinopathy should be explored to improve diagnosis and prognosis.

Keywords: Boucher-Neuhäuser syndrome; Gordon-Holmes syndrome; Laurence-Moon syndrome; NTE; Oliver-McFarlane syndrome; PNPLA6; Spastic paraplegia type 39.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases
  • Animals
  • Blepharoptosis*
  • Choroideremia*
  • Eye
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases*
  • Phospholipases / genetics
  • Retinal Diseases* / genetics


  • PNPLA6 protein, human
  • Acyltransferases
  • Phospholipases