The neurobiology of the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex

Ann Med. 2009;41(5):344-59. doi: 10.1080/07853890802668522.


While the function of dystrophin in muscle disease has been thoroughly investigated, dystrophin and associated proteins also have important roles in the central nervous system. Many patients with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies (D/BMD) have cognitive impairment, learning disability, and an increased incidence of some neuropsychiatric disorders. Accordingly, dystrophin and members of the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex (DGC) are found in the brain where they participate in macromolecular assemblies that anchor receptors to specialized sites within the membrane. In neurons, dystrophin and the DGC participate in the postsynaptic clustering and stabilization of some inhibitory GABAergic synapses. During development, alpha-dystroglycan functions as an extracellular matrix receptor controlling, amongst other things, neuronal migration in the developing cortex and cerebellum. Several types of congenital muscular dystrophy caused by impaired alpha-dystroglycan glycosylation cause neuronal migration abnormalities and mental retardation. In glial cells, the DGC is involved in the organization of protein complexes that target water-channels to the plasma membrane. Finally, mutations in the gene encoding epsilon-sarcoglycan cause the neurogenic movement disorder, myoclonus-dystonia syndrome implicating epsilon-sarcoglycan in dopaminergic neurotransmission. In this review we describe the recent progress in defining the role of the DGC and associated proteins in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Dystonia / metabolism*
  • Dystrophin-Associated Protein Complex / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / metabolism*
  • Malformations of Cortical Development, Group II / metabolism*
  • Muscular Dystrophies / metabolism*
  • Neurobiology / methods*


  • Dystrophin-Associated Protein Complex