Desmosomal Cadherins in Health and Disease

Marihan Hegazy, Abbey L. Perl, Sophia A. Svoboda, Kathleen J. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Desmosomal cadherins are a recent evolutionary innovation that make up the adhesive core of highly specialized intercellular junctions called desmosomes. Desmosomal cadherins, which are grouped into desmogleins and desmocollins, are related to the classical cadherins, but their cytoplasmic domains are tailored for anchoring intermediate filaments instead of actin to sites of cell-cell adhesion. The resulting junctions are critical for resisting mechanical stress in tissues such as the skin and heart. Desmosomal cadherins also act as signaling hubs that promote differentiation and facilitate morphogenesis, creating more complex and effective tissue barriers in vertebrate tissues. Interference with desmosomal cadherin adhesive and supra-adhesive functions leads to a variety of autoimmune, hereditary, toxin-mediated, and malignant diseases. We review our current understanding of how desmosomal cadherins contribute to human health and disease, highlight gaps in our knowledge about their regulation and function, and introduce promising new directions toward combatting desmosome-related diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-72
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease
StatePublished - 2021


  • cancer
  • cardiomyopathy
  • cell junctions
  • desmogleins
  • desmosomes
  • skin diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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