Desmosome structure, composition and function

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Desmosomes are intercellular junctions of epithelia and cardiac muscle. They resist mechanical stress because they adopt a strongly adhesive state in which they are said to be hyper-adhesive and which distinguishes them from other intercellular junctions; desmosomes are specialised for strong adhesion and their failure can result in diseases of the skin and heart. They are also dynamic structures whose adhesiveness can switch between high and low affinity adhesive states during processes such as embryonic development and wound healing, the switching being signalled by protein kinase C. Desmosomes may also act as signalling centres, regulating the availability of signalling molecules and thereby participating in fundamental processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis. Here we consider the structure, composition and function of desmosomes, and their role in embryonic development and disease. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-587
Number of pages16
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008