Annu Rev Pathol 2007 ;2:87-109
Department of Medicine, Section of Cardiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.
Dystrophic muscle disease can occur at any age. Early- or childhood-onset muscular dystrophies may be associated with profound loss of muscle function, affecting ambulation, posture, and cardiac and respiratory function. Late-onset muscular dystrophies or myopathies may be mild and associated with slight weakness and an inability to increase muscle mass. The phenotype of muscular dystrophy is an endpoint that arises from a diverse set of genetic pathways. Genes associated with muscular dystrophies encode proteins of the plasma membrane and extracellular matrix, and the sarcomere and Z band, as well as nuclear membrane components. Because muscle has such distinctive structural and regenerative properties, many of the genes implicated in these disorders target pathways unique to muscle or more highly expressed in muscle. This chapter reviews the basic structural properties of muscle and genetic mechanisms that lead to myopathy and muscular dystrophies that affect all age groups.