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Immunoelectron microscopic localization of dystrophin in myofibres


Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a common X-linked recessive human disease, has recently been shown to be caused by the deficiency of a large, low abundance protein called 'dystrophin'1–2. Biochemical techniques have shown dystrophin to be membrane-associated in skeletal muscle3, with enrichment of dystrophin in the t-tubules of 'triads'3,4. Other studies using immunohistochemistry on thick (10 μm) sections have shown dystrophin to be located at the periphery of muscle fibres, possibly at the plasma membrane5–7. These results have been interpreted as being either consistent and complementary6, or contradictory7. To localize dystrophin more precisely relative to these membrane systems we have employed highly sensitive and spatially accurate immuno-gold electron microscopy of ultra-thin (70–100 nm) cryosections. The major distribution of dystrophin was on the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane of muscle fibres, and possibly on the contiguous t-tubule membranes. The presented data, taken together with recently accumulated information regarding the primary structure of dystrophin8, suggests that dystrophin is a component of the membrane cytoskeleton in myogenic cells. Thus, myofibre necrosis in patients affected with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is likely the result of plasma membrane instability.

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