Desmosomes: New perspectives on a classic

Kathleen J. Green*, Cory L. Simpson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

277 Scopus citations

Abstract

Desmosomes are highly specialized anchoring junctions that link intermediate filaments to sites of intercellular adhesion, thus facilitating the formation of a supracellular scaffolding that distributes mechanical forces throughout a tissue. These junctions are thus particularly important for maintaining the integrity of tissues that endure physical stress, such as the epidermis and myocardium. The importance of the classic mechanical functions of desmosomal constituents is underscored by pathologies reported in animal models and an ever-expanding list of human mutations that target both desmosomal cadherins and their associated cytoskeletal anchoring proteins. However, the notion that desmosomes are static structures that exist simply to glue cells together belies their susceptibility to remodeling in response to environmental cues and their important tissue-specific roles in cell behavior and signaling. Here, we review the molecular blueprint of the desmosome and models for assembling its protein components to form an adhesive interface and the desmosomal plaque. We also discuss emerging evidence of supra-adhesive roles for desmosomal proteins in regulating tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis. Finally, we highlight the dynamic nature of these adhesive organelles, examining mechanisms in health and disease for modulating adhesive strength and stability of desmosomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2499-2515
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Volume127
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology

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