Limb-girdle muscular dystrophies 2C-F represent a family of autosomal recessive diseases caused by defects in sarcoglycan genes. The cardiomyopathic hamster is a naturally occurring model for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy caused by a primary deficiency in delta-sarcoglycan. We show here that acute sarcolemmal disruption occurs in this animal model during forceful muscle contraction. A recombinant adeno-associated virus vector encoding human delta-sarcoglycan conferred efficient and stable genetic reconstitution in the adult cardiomyopathic hamster when injected directly into muscle. A quantitative assay demonstrated that vector-transduced muscle fibers are stably protected from sarcolemmal disruption; there was no associated inflammation or immunologic response to the vector-encoded protein. Efficient gene transduction with rescue of the sarcoglycan complex in muscle fibers of the distal hindlimb was also obtained after infusion of recombinant adeno-associated virus into the femoral artery in conjunction with histamine-induced endothelial permeabilization. This study provides a strong rationale for the development of gene therapy for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.