Desmosomes and cytoskeletal architecture in epithelial differentiation: cell type-specific plaque components and intermediate filament anchorage

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Among the diverse kinds of intercellular, plaque-bearing, cadherin-containing junctions, desmosomes (maculae adhaerentes) represent a major type characterized by the presence of specific transmembrane glycoproteins, i.e. desmosomal cadherins of the desmoglein and desmocollin categories, and the cytoplasmic plaque proteins, desmoplakin I and plakoglobin. Recent studies, however, have shown that the composition of desmosomes is not identical in the various normal and tumorous desmosome-forming tissues and cell cultures, including diverse forms of epithelia and carcinomas, meningothelia and meningiomas, myocardium and the lymph node follicle reticulum. Desmosomes can differ in their specific complement of desmogleins, Dsg1-3, and desmocollins, Dsc1a-3b, as well as in the additional presence and in their relative amounts of certain accessory plaque proteins such as desmoplakin II and plakophilin 1, a basic member of the larger plakoglobin family of proteins ("band 6 protein"). Assembly and function of desmosomes are effected by the interaction of the specific complement of desmosomal cadherins with certain cytoplasmic proteins. In particular, the cytoplasmic portions ("tails") of the desmosomal cadherins contain certain domains and amino acid sequence motifs, identified by mutagenesis and transfection assays, that are essential elements in desmosome formation, notably the assembly of plaque proteins, and in the site-specific anchorage of intermediate-sized filaments (IFs) of the cytoskeleton, thereby contributing to the specific intracellular as well as supracellular, i.e. tissue, architecture.


  • A Schmidt
  • H W Heid
  • S Schafer
  • Ulrike Nuber
  • R Zimbelmann
  • W W Franke
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-245
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Publication categoryResearch