Purification of the proteins associated with dystrophin, the gene product responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, led to the discovery of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex. Sarcospan, a 25-kDa transmembrane protein, was the last component to be identified and its function in skeletal muscle has been elusive. This review will focus on progress over the last decade revealing that sarcospan is an important regulator of muscle cell adhesion, strength, and regeneration. Investigations using several transgenic mouse models demonstrate that overexpression of sarcospan in the mouse model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy ameliorates pathology and restores muscle cell binding to laminin. Sarcospan improves cell surface expression of the dystrophin- and utrophin-glycoprotein complexes as well as α7β1 integrin, which are the three major laminin-binding complexes in muscle. Utrophin and α7β1 integrin compensate for the loss of dystrophin and the finding that sarcospan increases their abundance at the extra-synaptic sarcolemma supports the use of sarcospan as a therapeutic target. Newly discovered phenotypes in sarcospan-deficient mice, including a reduction in specific force output and increased drop in force in the diaphragm muscle, result from decreased utrophin and dystrophin expression and further reveal sarcospan's role in determining abundance of these complexes. Dystrophin protein levels and the specific force output of the diaphragm muscle are further reduced upon genetic removal of α7 integrin (Itga7) in SSPN-deficient mice, demonstrating that interactions between integrin and sarcospan are critical for maintenance of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex and force production of the diaphragm muscle. Sarcospan is a major regulator of Akt signaling pathways and sarcospan-deficiency significantly impairs muscle regeneration, a process that is dependent on Akt activation. Intriguingly, sarcospan regulates glycosylation of a specific subpopulation of α-dystroglycan, the laminin-binding receptor associated with dystrophin and utrophin, localized to the neuromuscular junction. Understanding the basic mechanisms responsible for assembly and trafficking of the dystrophin- and utrophin-glycoprotein complexes to the cell surface is lacking and recent studies suggest that sarcospan plays a role in these essential processes. © 2013 Marshall and Watson; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Marshall, J. L., & Crosbie-Watson, R. H. (2013, January 3). Sarcospan: A small protein with large potential for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Skeletal Muscle. https://doi.org/10.1186/2044-5040-3-1