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Heterogeneity of dystrophin expression in patients with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy


This report documents the results of an integrated biochemical and immunocytochemical investigation into the expression of dystrophin (the protein product of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene) in muscle biopsies from 226 patients. It is the first study in which dystrophin has been analysed on blots and on tissue sections in such a large number of patients using the same (monoclonal) antibody. The 140 patients with Xp21 muscular dystrophy who were included in this study represent a continuous spectrum of disease severity and this range was reflected in the heterogeneity of dystrophin expression which was observed with respect to abundance, size and the pattern of tissue localisation. Approximately 40% of biopsies obtained from patients diagnosed as having Duchenne muscular, dystrophy (DMD) contained isolated clearly positive fibres and a further 20% had very weak labelling on a large number of fibres. Biopsies from patients with Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) showed labelling patterns which varied from weak labelling on the majority of fibres to clear labelling on all fibres. Typically, however, there was inter-and intra-fibre variation in labelling intensity. Approximately 85% of the 52 BMD and 54 DMD patients who had unequivocal labelling on blots demonstrated a protein of abnormal size. The remaining 15% had a protein of normal size but reduced abundance. Overall, the estimated abundance of dystrophin correlated well with clinical assessments of the disease severity expressed in patients: We conclude that dystrophin analysis is an essential and dependable technique for the differential diagnosis of patients with Xp21 muscular dystrophy.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to L. V. B. Nicholson.

Additional information

Supported by the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Research Committee, the Muscular Dystropy Group of Great Britain and the Medical Research Council

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Nicholson, L.V.B., Johnson, M.A., Gardner-Medwin, D. et al. Heterogeneity of dystrophin expression in patients with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. Acta Neuropathol 80, 239–250 (1990).

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Key words

  • Dystrophin
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • Becker muscular dystrophy
  • Muscle proteins