Exercise and muscular dystrophy: Implications and analysis of effects on musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems

Matthew S. Barnabei, Joshua M. Martindale, DeWayne Townsend, Joseph M Metzger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The muscular dystrophies are a heterogeneous collection of progressive, inherited diseases of muscle weakness and degeneration. Although these diseases can vary widely in their etiology and presentation, nearly all muscular dystrophies cause exercise intolerance to some degree. Here, we focus on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most common form of muscular dystrophy, as a paradigm for the effects of muscle disease on exercise capacity. First described in the mid-1800s, DMD is a rapidly progressive and lethal muscular dystrophy caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Dystrophin is a membrane-associated cytoskeletal protein, the loss of which causes numerous cellular defects including mechanical instability of the sarcolemma, increased influx of extracellular calcium, and cell signaling defects. Here, we discuss the physiological basis for exercise intolerance in DMD, focusing on the molecular and cellular defects caused by loss of dystrophin and how these manifest as organ-level dysfunction and reduced exercise capacity. The main focus of this article is the defects present in dystrophin-deficient striated muscle. However, discussion regarding the effects of dystrophin loss on other tissues, including vascular smooth muscle is also included. Collectively, the goal of this article is to summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the mechanistic basis for exercise intolerance in DMD, which may serve as an archetype for other muscular dystrophies and diseases of muscle wasting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1353-1363
Number of pages11
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011

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