Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is characterized by degeneration of motor neurons of the spinal cord associated with muscle paralysis and caused by mutations of the survival motor neuron gene (SMN). To determine whether SMN gene defect in skeletal muscle might have a role in SMA pathogenesis, deletion of murine SMN exon 7, the most frequent mutation found in SMA, has been restricted to skeletal muscle by using the Cre-loxP system. Mutant mice display ongoing muscle necrosis with a dystrophic phenotype leading to muscle paralysis and death. The dystrophic phenotype is associated with elevated levels of creatine kinase activity, Evans blue dye uptake into muscle fibers, reduced amount of dystrophin and upregulation of utrophin expression suggesting a destabilization of the sarcolemma components. The mutant mice will be a valuable model for elucidating the underlying mechanism. Moreover, our results suggest a primary involvement of skeletal muscle in human SMA, which may contribute to motor defect in addition to muscle denervation caused by the motor neuron degeneration. These data may have important implications for the development of therapeutic strategies in SMA.