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Brain Pathol. 2000 Apr;10(2):193-214.

Diagnostic protein expression in human muscle biopsies.

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  • 1Institute of Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Germany.


Using immunohistochemistry in diagnosing neuromuscular diseases is meant to enhance the diagnostic yield in two ways. The first application aims at visualizing molecules which are developmentally, neurally, and/or immunologically regulated and not expressed by normal muscle. They are upregulated in pathological conditions and may help assign a given muscular biopsy to one of the main diagnostic entities (muscular dystrophies, inflammatory myopathy, neurogenic atrophy). In the past, muscle-specific molecules with a defined expression pattern during fetal myogenesis served as antigens, with the rationale that the developmental program was switched on in new fibers. Recently, myofibers in diseased muscle are thought of as targets of stimuli which are released by macrophages in muscular dystrophy, by lymphocytes in inflammatory myopathies, or by a lesioned peripheral nerve in neurogenic atrophies. This has somewhat blurred the borders between the diagnostic groups, for certain molecules, e.g. cytokines, may be upregulated after experimental necrotization, denervation, and also in inflammatory myopathies. In the second part of this review we summarise the experiences of a Centre in the North of England that specialises in the diagnosis and clinical support of patients with muscular dystrophy. Emphasis is placed on the use of protein expression to guide mutation analysis, particularly in the limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (a group of diseases that are very difficult to differentiate on clinical grounds alone). We confirm that genetic analysis is essential to corroborate the results of protein analysis in certain conditions (particularly in calpainopathy). However, we conclude that analysing biopsies for abnormal protein expression is very useful in aiding the decision between alternative diagnoses.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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