Structural and functional diversity of desmosomes

Robert M. Harmon, Kathleen J. Green*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Desmosomes anchor intermediate filaments at sites of cell contact established by the interaction of cadherins extending from opposing cells. The incorporation of cadherins, catenin adaptors, and cytoskeletal elements resembles the closely related adherens junction. However, the recruitment of intermediate filaments distinguishes desmosomes and imparts a unique function. By linking the load-bearing intermediate filaments of neighboring cells, desmosomes create mechanically contiguous cell sheets and, in so doing, confer structural integrity to the tissues they populate. This trait and a well-established role in human disease have long captured the attention of cell biologists, as evidenced by a publication record dating back to the mid-1860s. Likewise, emerging data implicating the desmosome in signaling events pertinent to organismal development, carcinogenesis, and genetic disorders will secure a prominent role for desmosomes in future biological and biomedical investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-187
Number of pages17
JournalCell Communication and Adhesion
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Adhesion
  • Desmosome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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