Clinical and Molecular Insights into Gastrointestinal Dysfunction in Myotonic Dystrophy Types 1 & 2

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Nov 26;23(23):14779. doi: 10.3390/ijms232314779.


Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is a highly variable, multisystemic disorder that clinically affects one in 8000 individuals. While research has predominantly focused on the symptoms and pathological mechanisms affecting striated muscle and brain, DM patient surveys have identified a high prevalence for gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms amongst affected individuals. Clinical studies have identified chronic and progressive dysfunction of the esophagus, stomach, liver and gallbladder, small and large intestine, and rectum and anal sphincters. Despite the high incidence of GI dysmotility in DM, little is known regarding the pathological mechanisms leading to GI dysfunction. In this review, we summarize results from clinical and molecular analyses of GI dysfunction in both genetic forms of DM, DM type 1 (DM1) and DM type 2 (DM2). Based on current knowledge of DM primary pathological mechanisms in other affected tissues and GI tissue studies, we suggest that misregulation of alternative splicing in smooth muscle resulting from the dysregulation of RNA binding proteins muscleblind-like and CUGBP-elav-like is likely to contribute to GI dysfunction in DM. We propose that a combinatorial approach using clinical and molecular analysis of DM GI tissues and model organisms that recapitulate DM GI manifestations will provide important insight into defects impacting DM GI motility.

Keywords: alternative splicing; gastrointestinal dysfunction; myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1); myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2); smooth muscle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myotonic Dystrophy* / complications
  • Myotonic Dystrophy* / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • RNA-Binding Proteins