We report the case of a 2-year-old boy with seizures who developed hepatic failure shortly after commencing sodium valproate. Unexpectedly, liver function returned to normal on stopping the drug. Sequencing of the mitochondrial polymerase gamma gene (POLG1) revealed four heterozygous substitutions, two of which have been identified in cases of Alpers-Huttenlocher disease.
"Recent studies gave evidence that POLG mutations can lead to a range of clinical phenotypes which predispose to the development of fatal liver failure after exposure to VPA [15,18]. Nevertheless, a single case report suggests that there may be mutations in the POLG gene associated with reversibility of the hepatotoxicity , The presented study extends the list of POLG mutations associated with VPA hepatotoxicity. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: DNA polymerase γ (POLG) is the only known mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymerase. It mediates mtDNA replication and base excision repair. Mutations in the POLG gene lead to reduction of functional mtDNA (mtDNA depletion and/or deletions) and are therefore predicted to result in defective oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Many mutations map to the polymerase and exonuclease domains of the enzyme and produce a broad clinical spectrum. The most frequent mutation p.A467T is localised in the linker region between these domains. In compound heterozygote patients the p.A467T mutation has been described to be associated amongst others with fatal childhood encephalopathy. These patients have a poorer survival rate compared to homozygotes.
mtDNA content in various tissues (fibroblasts, muscle and liver) was quantified using quantitative PCR (qPCR). OXPHOS activities in the same tissues were assessed using spectrophotometric methods and catalytic stain of BN-PAGE.
We characterise a novel splice site mutation in POLG found in trans with the p.A467T mutation in a 3.5 years old boy with valproic acid induced acute liver failure (Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome). These mutations result in a tissue specific depletion of the mtDNA which correlates with the OXPHOS-activities.
mtDNA depletion can be expressed in a high tissue-specific manner and confirms the need to analyse primary tissue. Furthermore, POLG analysis optimises clinical management in the early stages of disease and reinforces the need for its evaluation before starting valproic acid treatment.
"Valproic acid, although seemingly beneficial for SE, should be avoided, as patients with POLG1 mutations are at high risk of acute liver failure, which can manifest several weeks after starting therapy. Transient liver failure with recovery after stopping valproic acid is possible (Patient 5) and has been reported (McFarland et al., 2008). In case of irreversible organ failure, transplantation rescues liver function, but neurologic outcome remains grim. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Refractory convulsive status epilepticus in infancy and childhood is a rare emergency situation. Metabolic disorders frequently underlie this condition, in particular Alpers' disease caused by POLG1 mutations. Status epilepticus may be the first symptom. A pathognomonic electroencephalography (EEG) signature may facilitate diagnosis of Alpers' disease and allow timely avoidance of valproic acid, which is contraindicated in this disorder because it may trigger fatal liver failure.
We present five patients with Alpers' disease caused by mutations in POLG1. Age of onset ranged from 7 months to 10 years. Three of the five children died after 3 to 12 months after onset of status epilepticus. Two of these had liver failure associated with use of valproic acid; liver transplantation in one child did not prevent a fatal neurologic outcome.
Convulsive status epilepticus was the first obvious sign of Alpers' disease in all children. All had focal clonic and complex-focal seizures; four of them developed epilepsia partialis continua. In four children, initial EEG showed unilateral occipital rhythmic high-amplitude delta with superimposed (poly)spikes (RHADS). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed cortical and thalamic involvement in all, although there were only discrete abnormalities in one child. Metabolic investigations remained normal in three children.
Alpers' disease is an important differential diagnosis in childhood refractory convulsive status epilepticus. Its EEG hallmark of RHADS is important for timely diagnosis, management, and counseling.
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