Desmosomes and hemidesmosomes: Structure and function of molecular components

Kathleen J. Green, Jonathan C.R. Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

300 Scopus citations


Desmosomes and hemidesmosomes are the major cell surface attachment sites for intermediate filaments at cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, respectively. The transmembrane molecules of the desmosome belong to the cadherin family of calcium-dependent adhesion molecules, whereas those in the hemidesmosome include the integrin class of cell matrix receptors. In each junction, the cytoplasmic domains of certain transmembrane junction components contain unusually long carboxy-terminal tails not found in those family members involved in linkage of actin to the cell surface. These domains are thought to be important for the regulation of junction assembly and specific attachment of intermediate filaments via associated adapter proteins. Recent developments have suggested the exciting possibility that these junctions, in addition to playing an important structural function in tissue integrity, are both acceptors and affectors of cell signaling pathways. Many desmosomal and hemidesmosomal constituents are phosphoproteins and in certain cases the function of specific phosphorylation sites in regulating protein-protein interactions is being uncovered. In addition, a more active role in transmitting signals that control morphogenesis during development and possibly even regulate cell growth and differentiation are being defined for cytoplasmic and membrane components of these junctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-881
Number of pages11
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • cell junction
  • cytoskeleton
  • matrix connector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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