Nesprins-1 and -2 are highly expressed in skeletal and cardiac muscle and together with SUN (Sad1p/UNC84)-domain containing proteins and lamin A/C form the LInker of Nucleoskeleton-and-Cytoskeleton (LINC) bridging complex at the nuclear envelope (NE). Mutations in nesprin-1/2 have previously been found in patients with autosomal dominant Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD) as well as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). In this study, three novel rare variants (R8272Q, S8381C and N8406K) in the C-terminus of the SYNE1 gene (nesprin-1) were identified in seven DCM patients by mutation screening. Expression of these mutants caused nuclear morphology defects and reduced lamin A/C and SUN2 staining at the NE. GST pull-down indicated that nesprin-1/lamin/SUN interactions were disrupted. Nesprin-1 mutations were also associated with augmented activation of the ERK pathway in vitro and in hearts in vivo. During C2C12 muscle cell differentiation, nesprin-1 levels are increased concomitantly with kinesin light chain (KLC-1/2) and immunoprecipitation and GST pull-down showed that these proteins interacted via a recently identified LEWD domain in the C-terminus of nesprin-1. Expression of nesprin-1 mutants in C2C12 cells caused defects in myoblast differentiation and fusion associated with dysregulation of myogenic transcription factors and disruption of the nesprin-1 and KLC-1/2 interaction at the outer nuclear membrane. Expression of nesprin-1α2 WT and mutants in zebrafish embryos caused heart developmental and conduction defects that varied in severity. These findings support a role for nesprin-1 in myogenesis and muscle disease, and uncover a novel mechanism whereby disruption of the LINC complex may contribute to the pathogenesis of DCM.