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Brain Pathol. 1996 Jan;6(1):37-47.

Utrophin: a structural and functional comparison to dystrophin.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, UK.


Utrophin is an autosomally-encoded homologue of dystrophin, the protein product of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) gene. Although, utrophin is very similar in sequence to dystrophin and possesses many of the protein-binding properties ascribed to dystrophin, both proteins are expressed in an apparently reciprocal manner and may be coordinately regulated. In normal skeletal muscle, utrophin is found at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) whereas dystrophin predominates at the sarcolemma. However, during development, and in some myopathies including DMD, utrophin is also found at the sarcolemma. This re-distribution is often associated with a significant increase in the levels of utrophin. At the NMJ utrophin co-localizes with the acetylcholine receptors (AChR) and may play a role in the stabilization of the synaptic cytoskeleton. Because utrophin and dystrophin are so similar, utrophin may be able to replace dystrophin in dystrophin deficient muscle. This review compares the structure and function of utrophin to dystrophin and discusses the rationale behind the use of utrophin as a potential therapeutic agent.

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