Duchenne muscular dystrophy: pathogenetic aspects and genetic prevention

Hum Genet. 1984;66(1):17-40. doi: 10.1007/BF00275183.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common sex linked lethal disease in man (one case in about 4000 male live births). The patients are wheelchair bound around the age of 8-10 years and usually die before the age of 20 years. The mutation rate, estimated by different methods and from different population studies, is in the order of 7 X 10(-5), which is higher than for any other X-linked genetic disease. Moreover, unlike other X linked diseases such as hemophilia A or Lesh-Nyhan's disease, there seems to be no sex difference for the mutation rates in DMD. Several observations of DMD in girls bearing X-autosomal translocations and linkage studies on two X chromosomal DNA restriction fragment length polymorphisms indicate that the DMD locus is situated on the short arm of the X chromosome, between Xp11 and Xp22. It may be of considerable length, and perhaps consisting of actively coding and non-active intervening DNA sequences. Thus unequal crossing over during meiosis in females could theoretically account for a considerable proportion of new mutations. However, there is no structurally or functionally abnormal protein known that might represent the primary gene product, nor has any pathogenetic mechanism leading to the observed biochemical and histological alterations been elucidated. Among the numerous pathogenetic concepts the hypothesis of a structural or/and functional defect of the muscular plasma membrane is still the most attractive. It would explain both the excess of muscular constituents found in serum of patients and carriers, such as creatine kinase (CK), as well as the excessive calcium uptake by dystrophic muscle fibres, which, prior to necrosis, could lead to hypercontraction, rupture of myofilaments in adjacent sarcomeres and by excessive Ca uptake to mitochondrial damage causing crucial energy loss. The results of studies on structural and functional membrane abnormalities in cells other than muscle tissue, e.g., erythrocytes, lymphocytes and cultured fibroblasts, indicate that the DMD mutation is probably demonstrable in these tissues. However, most of the findings are still difficult to reproduce or even controversial. DMD is an incurable disease; therefore most effort, in research as well as in practical medicine, is concentrated upon its prevention.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Enzyme Tests
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Crossing Over, Genetic
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA, Recombinant
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genes
  • Genetic Carrier Screening*
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscular Dystrophies / etiology
  • Muscular Dystrophies / genetics*
  • Muscular Dystrophies / prevention & control
  • Mutation
  • Pedigree
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Sex Factors
  • X Chromosome*


  • DNA, Recombinant
  • DNA
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Calcium