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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions     A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®

Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy

Reviewed May 2015

What is Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy is a condition that mainly affects skeletal muscles, which are the muscles used for movement. Affected individuals show muscle weakness soon after birth. The muscle weakness is typically severe, and most affected people cannot walk unassisted; some affected children are able to walk but progressive weakness impairs walking later in life. Individuals with this condition develop joint stiffness (contractures) in many of their joints, including neck, hips, and knees, which can restrict movement. They may also have an unusually large range of joint movement (hypermobility) in their fingers, wrists, toes, and ankles. In some affected people, the respiratory muscles are weakened, requiring people to use a machine to help them breathe (mechanical ventilation).

Some people with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy have skin abnormalities such as small bumps called follicular hyperkeratosis that develop around the elbows and knees; soft, velvety skin of the palms and soles; and wounds that split open with little bleeding and widen over time to create shallow scars.

How common is Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy is estimated to occur in 1 in 1 million individuals.

What genes are related to Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

Mutations in the COL6A1, COL6A2, and COL6A3 genes cause Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. These genes each provide instructions for making one component of a protein called type VI collagen. Collagens are proteins that strengthen and support connective tissues, which provide strength and flexibility to structures such as bones, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels. Type VI collagen plays an important role in muscle, particularly skeletal muscle.

Type VI collagen makes up part of the extracellular matrix that surrounds muscle cells. The extracellular matrix is an intricate lattice that forms in the space between cells and provides structural support. The extracellular matrix that surrounds muscle cells is necessary for muscle cell stability and growth.

Mutations in the type VI collagen genes that cause Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy result in an abnormal type VI collagen or in a severe shortage (deficiency) in its production. Altered or deficient type VI collagen in the extracellular matrix surrounding muscle cells leads to muscle weakness and the other signs and symptoms of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

Because Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in genes that lead to the production of type VI collagen, it is part of a larger disorder known as collagen VI-related muscular dystrophy.

Related Gene(s)

Changes in these genes are associated with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

  • COL6A1
  • COL6A2
  • COL6A3

How do people inherit Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy is typically inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.

This condition can also be inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. Most cases result from new mutations in the gene and occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.

Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

These resources address the diagnosis or management of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and may include treatment providers.

  • Cleveland Clinic: Muscular Dystrophy (
  • Gene Review: Collagen Type VI-Related Disorders (
  • Genetic Testing Registry: Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy (
  • Muscular Dystrophy UK: Could Cyclosporine A be used to treat Bethlem myopathy and Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy? (

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy in Educational resources and Patient support.

General information about the diagnosis ( and management ( of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing (, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests (

To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

You may find the following resources about Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy helpful. These materials are written for the general public.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

  • COL6-RD
  • collagen VI-related congenital muscular dystrophy
  • collagen VI-related muscular dystrophy
  • scleroatonic muscular dystrophy
  • UCMD
  • Ullrich disease
  • Ullrich scleroatonic muscular dystrophy

For more information about naming genetic conditions, see the Genetics Home Reference Condition Naming Guidelines ( and How are genetic conditions and genes named? ( in the Handbook.

What if I still have specific questions about Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

Ask the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (

What glossary definitions help with understanding Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy?

autosomal ; autosomal dominant ; autosomal recessive ; cell ; collagen ; congenital ; deficiency ; extracellular ; extracellular matrix ; gene ; hypermobility ; inherited ; joint ; muscle cell ; muscle cells ; muscular dystrophy ; protein ; recessive ; respiratory ; skeletal muscle

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.


  • Baker NL, Mörgelin M, Peat R, Goemans N, North KN, Bateman JF, Lamandé SR. Dominant collagen VI mutations are a common cause of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Jan 15;14(2):279-93. Epub 2004 Nov 24. (
  • Bönnemann CG, Wang CH, Quijano-Roy S, Deconinck N, Bertini E, Ferreiro A, Muntoni F, Sewry C, Béroud C, Mathews KD, Moore SA, Bellini J, Rutkowski A, North KN; Members of International Standard of Care Committee for Congenital Muscular Dystrophies. Diagnostic approach to the congenital muscular dystrophies. Neuromuscul Disord. 2014 Apr;24(4):289-311. doi: 10.1016/j.nmd.2013.12.011. Epub 2014 Jan 9. (
  • Bushby KM, Collins J, Hicks D. Collagen type VI myopathies. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;802:185-99. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7893-1_12. Review. (
  • Lampe AK, Zou Y, Sudano D, O'Brien KK, Hicks D, Laval SH, Charlton R, Jimenez-Mallebrera C, Zhang RZ, Finkel RS, Tennekoon G, Schreiber G, van der Knaap MS, Marks H, Straub V, Flanigan KM, Chu ML, Muntoni F, Bushby KM, Bönnemann CG. Exon skipping mutations in collagen VI are common and are predictive for severity and inheritance. Hum Mutat. 2008 Jun;29(6):809-22. doi: 10.1002/humu.20704. (
  • Miscione MT, Bruno F, Ripamonti C, Nervuti G, Orsini R, Faldini C, Pellegrini M, Cocchi D, Merlini L. Body composition, muscle strength, and physical function of patients with Bethlem myopathy and Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Sep 12;2013:152684. doi: 10.1155/2013/152684. eCollection 2013. (
  • Tagliavini F, Pellegrini C, Sardone F, Squarzoni S, Paulsson M, Wagener R, Gualandi F, Trabanelli C, Ferlini A, Merlini L, Santi S, Maraldi NM, Faldini C, Sabatelli P. Defective collagen VI α6 chain expression in the skeletal muscle of patients with collagen VI-related myopathies. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Sep;1842(9):1604-12. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2014.05.033. Epub 2014 Jun 5. (


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Reviewed: May 2015
Published: September 28, 2015