Glycerol kinase deficiency (GKD) is an X-linked recessive disorder. There are two types, an isolated form and a complex form. We review the clinical, biochemical and molecular genetic features of GKD. The clinical and biochemical phenotype of isolated GKD may vary from a life-threatening childhood metabolic crisis to asymptomatic adult 'pseudohypertriglyceridaemia', resulting from hyperglycerolaemia. To date 38 patients from 24 families with isolated GKD have been reported. At least 7 of these patients had a metabolic crisis during a catabolic condition. The complex GKD is an Xp21 contiguous gene syndrome involving the glycerol kinase locus together with the adrenal hypoplasia congenita (AHC) or Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) loci or both. Clinical features of a patient with complex GKD depend on the loci that are involved. Approximately 100 patients from 78 families with a complex GKD have been reported. Seventeen patients with complex GKD (AHC-GKD-DMD or AHC-GKD) died in the neonatal period or early childhood because of unrecognized or inappropriate management of adrenal dysfunction. Since the outcome of the crisis in GKD is highly dependent on the physicians' knowledge of the disease, we devised an algorithmic approach to the diagnosis. From molecular genetic investigations of isolated GKD, 7 missense mutations, 2 splice site mutations, 1 nonsense mutation, 1 Alu Sx insertion and 2 small deletions were reported for isolated GKD in 13 unrelated families. In 4 families consisting of more than one patient with the same biochemical and genetic defect, the phenotypic variability of the isolated GKD was remarkable. The clinical variability in isolated GKD cannot be explained by biochemical or by molecular heterogeneity. Isolated GKD patients showed a tendency towards hypoglycaemia with hyperketonaemia; whether the clinical symptoms of GKD are caused by dysfunction of gluconeogenesis and/or ketolysis needs to be investigated further.