This review presents an overview of myopathies and inherited connective tissue disorders that are caused by defects in or deficiencies of molecules within the extracellular matrix (ECM). We will cover the myopathies caused by defects in transmembrane protein complexes (dystroglycan, sarcoglycan, and integrins), laminin, and collagens (collagens VI, XIII, and XV). Clinical characteristics of several of these myopathies imply skin and joint features. We subsequently describe the inherited connective tissue disorders that are characterized by mild to moderate muscle involvement in addition to the dermal, vascular, or articular symptoms. These disorders are caused by defects of matrix-embedded ECM molecules that are also present within muscle (collagens I, III, V, IX, lysylhydroxylase, tenascin, fibrillin, fibulin, elastin, and perlecan). By focussing on the structure and function of these ECM molecules, we aim to point out the clinical and molecular overlap between the groups of disorders. We argue that clinicians and researchers dealing with myopathies and inherited connective tissue disorders should be aware of this overlap. Only a multi-disciplinary approach will allow full recognition of the wide variety of symptoms present in the spectrum of ECM defects, which has important implications for scientific research, diagnosis, and for the treatment of these disorders. © 2008 Elsevier B.V.