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Brain. 2002 Jan;125(Pt 1):4-13.

Brain function in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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School of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the second most commonly occurring genetically inherited disease in humans. It is an X-linked condition that affects approximately one in 3300 live male births. It is caused by the absence or disruption of the protein dystrophin, which is found in a variety of tissues, most notably skeletal muscle and neurones in particular regions of the CNS. Clinically DMD is characterized by a severe pathology of the skeletal musculature that results in the premature death of the individual. An important aspect of DMD that has received less attention is the role played by the absence or disruption of dystrophin on CNS function. In this review we concentrate on insights into this role gained from investigation of boys with DMD and the genetically most relevant animal model of DMD, the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse. Behavioural studies have shown that DMD boys have a cognitive impairment and a lower IQ (average 85), whilst the mdx mice display an impairment in passive avoidance reflex and in short-term memory. In DMD boys, there is evidence of disordered CNS architecture, abnormalities in dendrites and loss of neurones, all associated with neurones that normally express dystrophin. In the mdx mouse, there have been reports of a 50% decrease in neurone number and neural shrinkage in regions of the cerebral cortex and brainstem. Histological evidence shows that the density of GABA(A) channel clusters is reduced in mdx Purkinje cells and hippocampal CA1 neurones. At the biochemical level, in DMD boys the bioenergetics of the CNS is abnormal and there is an increase in the levels of choline-containing compounds, indicative of CNS pathology. The mdx mice also display abnormal bioenergetics, with an increased level of inorganic phosphate and increased levels of choline-containing compounds. Functionally, DMD boys have EEG abnormalities and there is some preliminary evidence that synaptic function is affected adversely by the absence of dystrophin. Electrophysiological studies of mdx mice have shown that hippocampal neurones have an increased susceptibility to hypoxia. These recent findings on the role of dystrophin in the CNS have implications for the clinical management of boys with DMD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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