Attempts to develop gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have been complicated by the enormous size of the dystrophin gene. We have performed a detailed functional analysis of dystrophin structural domains and show that multiple regions of the protein can be deleted in various combinations to generate highly functional mini- and micro-dystrophins. Studies in transgenic mdx mice, a model for DMD, reveal that a wide variety of functional characteristics of dystrophy are prevented by some of these truncated dystrophins. Muscles expressing the smallest dystrophins are fully protected against damage caused by muscle activity and are not morphologically different from normal muscle. Moreover, injection of adeno-associated viruses carrying micro-dystrophins into dystrophic muscles of immunocompetent mdx mice results in a striking reversal of histopathological features of this disease. These results demonstrate that the dystrophic pathology can be both prevented and reversed by gene therapy using micro-dystrophins.