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Acta Myol. 2007 Dec;26(3):129-35.

Muscular dystrophies due to defective glycosylation of dystroglycan.

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  • 1Dubowitz Neuromuscular Centre, Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


Muscular dystrophies are a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of disorders. Until recently most of the proteins associated with muscular dystrophies were believed to be proteins of the sarcolemma associated with reinforcing the plasma membrane or in facilitating its re-sealing following injury. In the last few years a novel and frequent pathogenic mechanism has been identified that involves the abnormal glycosylation of alpha-dystroglycan (ADG). This peripheral membrane protein undergoes complex and crucial glycosylation steps that enable it to interact with LG domain containing extracellular matrix proteins such as laminins, agrin and perlecan. Mutations in six genes (POMT1, POMT2, POMGnT1, fukutin, FKRP and LARGE) have been identified in patients with reduced glycosylation of ADG. While initially a clear correlation between gene defect and phenotype was observed for each of these 6 genes (for example, Walker Warburg syndrome was associated with mutations in POMT1 and POMT2, Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy associated with fukutin mutations, and Muscle Eye Brain disease associated with POMGnT1 mutations), we have recently demonstrated that allelic mutations in each of these 6 genes can result in a much wider spectrum of clinical conditions. Thus, the crucial aspect in determining the phenotypic severity is not which gene is primarily mutated, but how severely the mutation affects the glycosylation of ADG. Systematic mutation analysis of these 6 glycosyltransferases in patients with a dystroglycan glycosylation disorder identifies mutations in approximately 65% suggesting that more genes have yet to be identified.

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