Molecular organization of the desmoglein-plakoglobin complex

Nikolai A. Chitaev, Alexander Z. Averbakh, Regina B. Troyanovsky, Sergey M. Troyanovsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Scopus citations


Different epithelial intercellular junctions contain distinct complexes incorporating plakoglobin. In adherens junctions, plakoglobin interacts with two molecules, the transmembrane adhesion protein of the cadherin family (e.g. E-cadherin) and α-catenin. The latter is thought to anchor the cadherin-plakoglobin complex to the cortical actin cytoskeleton. In desmosomes, plakoglobin forms a complex with desmosomal cadherins, either desmoglein (Dsg) or desmocollin (Dsc), but not with α-catenin. To further understand the structure and assembly of the plakoglobin-cadherin complexes we analyzed amino acid residues involved in plakoglobin-Dsg interactions using alanine scanning mutagenesis. Previously, we have shown that plakoglobin interacts with a 72 amino acid-long cytoplasmic domain (C-domain) that is conserved among desmosomal and classic cadherins. In this paper, we show that a row of the large hydrophobic residues located at the C-terminal portion of the Dsg C-domain is indispensable for interaction with plakoglobin. To study a reciprocal site we expressed plakoglobin (MPg) or its mutants tagged by 6 myc epitope in epithelial A-431 cells. Using sucrose gradient centrifugation and subsequent co-immunoprecipitation, MPg was found to be efficiently incorporated into the same type of complexes as endogenous plakoglobin. A major pool of Dsg-plakoglobin complexes sedimented at 8S and exhibited a 1:1 stoichiometry. Using alanine scanning mutagenesis and the co-immunoprecipitation assay we identified nine hydrophobic amino acids within the arm repeats 1-3 of plakoglobin, that are required for binding to Dsg and Dsc. Eight of these amino acids also participate in the interaction with α-catenin. No mutations were found to reduce the affinity of plakoglobin binding to E-cadherin. These data provide direct evidence that the same hydrophobic plakoglobin surface is essential for mutually exclusive interaction with distinct proteins such as α-catenin and desmosomal cadherins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1941-1949
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number14
StatePublished - Sep 3 1998


  • Cadherin
  • Desmoglein
  • Desmosome
  • Plakoglobin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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