Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Print friendly version

Chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia

Other Names for this Disease
  • CPEO
  • Progressive external ophthalmoplegia
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.


Newline Maker

Is chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia inherited?

Chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia (CPEO) can be inherited, or it can occur sporadically (due to a new mutation in an individual with no history of the condition in the family).

CPEO is considered a "mitochondrial disorder." This is because all the genetic mutations that can cause CPEO ultimately result in dysfunction of the mitochondria, which are structures in our cells that produce energy required for normal cell function. While most of our DNA is located in the cell's center (nuclear DNA), some of our DNA is located within the mitochondria (mitochondrial DNA).[1] CPEO can be caused by mutations in any of several genes, which may be located in mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA. It has different inheritance patterns depending on the gene involved in the affected individual.[2]

Unlike nuclear DNA which is inherited from both the mother and the father, mitochondrial DNA is inherited from only the mother. In CPEO, the affected mitochondria (i.e., the ones carrying the mutations) are found only in the skeletal muscle cells. These mitochondrial DNA mutations are almost always sporadic (occurring by chance for the first time in the affected individual). Nuclear gene mutations that cause CPEO may be inherited in an autosomal recessive or autosomal dominant manner, depending on the gene involved.[1] The risk for other family members to be affected depends on the genetic cause and the inheritance pattern in the family.
Last updated: 10/10/2013

  1. DiMauro, Salvatore, and Michio Hirano. Mitochondrial DNA Deletion Syndromes. GeneReviews. 2006;
  2. Progressive external ophthalmoplegia. Genetics Home Reference. June 2011; Accessed 10/10/2013.