The congenital muscular dystrophies (CMD) are clinically and genetically heterogeneous. The merosin (laminin alpha 2 chain) deficient form (MDC1A), is characterized clinically by neonatal hypotonia, delayed motor milestones and associated contractures. It is caused by deficiency in the basal lamina of muscle fibers of the a2 chain of laminins 2 and 4 (LAMA2 gene at 6q22-23). Laminin a2 chain is also expressed in fetal trophoblast, which provides a suitable tissue for prenatal diagnosis in families where the index case has total deficiency of the protein. This article reports the collective experience of five centers over the past 10 years in 114 prenatal diagnostic studies using either protein analysis of the chorionic villus (CV) of the trophoblast plus DNA molecular studies with markers flanking the 6q22-23 region and intragenic polymorphisms (n = 58), or using only DNA (n = 44) or only protein (n = 12) approaches. Of the 102 fetuses studied by molecular genetics, 27 (26%) were predicted to be affected while 75 (74%) were considered as unaffected, with 52 (51%) being heterozygous, thus conforming closely to an autosomal recessive inheritance. In 18 of the 27 affected fetuses, the trophoblast was studied by immunocytochemistry and there was a total or only traces deficiency of the protein in CV basement membrane in all. In 10 cases material from the presumably affected fetus was available for analysis after termination of the pregnancy and immunohistochemical study confirmed the diagnosis in all of them. Prenatal studies of 'at risk' pregnancies in the five centers produced neither false negative (merosin-deficiency in CVs in a normal fetus), nor false positive (normal merosin expression in CVs and affected child), indicating the reliability of the technique, when all the necessary controls are done. Our experience suggests that protein and DNA analysis can be used either independently or combined, according to the facilities of each center, to provide accurate prenatal diagnosis of the MDC1A, and have an essential role in genetic counseling. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.