Structure and function of desmosomal proteins and their role in development and disease

Huber, O.
September 2003
Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences;Sep2003, Vol. 60 Issue 9, p1872
Academic Journal
Desmosomes represent major intercellular adhesive junctions at basolateral membranes of epithelial cells and in other tissues. They mediate direct cell-cell contacts and provide anchorage sites for intermediate filaments important for the maintenance of tissue architecture. There is increasing evidence now that desmosomes in addition to a simple structural function have new roles in tissue morphogenesis and differentiation. Transmembrane glycoproteins of the cadherin superfamily of Ca2+-dependent cell-cell adhesion molecules which mediate direct intercellular interactions in desmosomes appear to be of central importance in this respect. The complex network of proteins forming the desmosomal plaque associated with the cytoplasmic domain of the desmosomal cadherins, however, is also involved in junction assembly and regulation of adhesive strength. This re-view summarizes the structural features of these desmosomal proteins, their function during desmosome assembly and maintenance, and their role in development and disease.


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