POLG (polymerase gamma) gene mutations lead to a variety of neurological disorders, including Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome (AHS). The diagnostic triad of AHS is: resistant epilepsy, liver impairment triggered by sodium valproate (VA), and mitochondrial DNA depletion.
A cohort of 28 children with mitochondrial encephalopathy and liver failure was qualified for retrospective study of mitochondrial DNA depletion and POLG mutations.
The p.W748S POLG gene mutation was revealed in 2 children, the only ones in the cohort who fulfilled the AHS criteria. Depletion of mtDNA (16% of control value) was confirmed post mortem in available liver tissue and was not detected in the muscle. The disease started with drug-resistant seizures, failure to thrive and developmental regression at the ages of 7 and 18 months, respectively. Irreversible liver failure developed after VA administration. Co-existence of epilepsy, VA liver toxicity, lactic acidemia and muscle respiratory chain dysfunction led finally to the diagnosis of mitochondrial disorder (and AHS suspicion).
Our results confirm, for the first time, the occurrence of a pathology caused by POLG gene mutation(s) in the Polish population. POLG mutation screening and mtDNA depletion assessment should be included in differential diagnosis of drug-resistant epilepsy associated with a hepatopathy.