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1.  Regulation of β-Catenin Levels and Localization by Overexpression of Plakoglobin and Inhibition of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;139(5):1325-1335.
β-Catenin and plakoglobin (γ-catenin) are closely related molecules of the armadillo family of proteins. They are localized at the submembrane plaques of cell–cell adherens junctions where they form independent complexes with classical cadherins and α-catenin to establish the link with the actin cytoskeleton. Plakoglobin is also found in a complex with desmosomal cadherins and is involved in anchoring intermediate filaments to desmosomal plaques. In addition to their role in junctional assembly, β-catenin has been shown to play an essential role in signal transduction by the Wnt pathway that results in its translocation into the nucleus. To study the relationship between plakoglobin expression and the level of β-catenin, and the localization of these proteins in the same cell, we employed two different tumor cell lines that express N-cadherin, and α- and β-catenin, but no plakoglobin or desmosomal components. Individual clones expressing various levels of plakoglobin were established by stable transfection. Plakoglobin overexpression resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in the level of β-catenin in each clone. Induction of plakoglobin expression increased the turnover of β-catenin without affecting RNA levels, suggesting posttranslational regulation of β-catenin. In plakoglobin overexpressing cells, both β-catenin and plakoglobin were localized at cell– cell junctions. Stable transfection of mutant plakoglobin molecules showed that deletion of the N-cadherin binding domain, but not the α-catenin binding domain, abolished β-catenin downregulation. Inhibition of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in plakoglobin overexpressing cells blocked the decrease in β-catenin levels and resulted in accumulation of both β-catenin and plakoglobin in the nucleus. These results suggest that (a) plakoglobin substitutes effectively with β-catenin for association with N-cadherin in adherens junctions, (b) extrajunctional β-catenin is rapidly degraded by the proteasome-ubiquitin system but, (c) excess β-catenin and plakoglobin translocate into the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC2140206  PMID: 9382877
2.  Tyrosine Phosphorylation of Plakoglobin Causes Contrary Effects on Its Association with Desmosomes and Adherens Junction Components and Modulates β-Catenin-Mediated Transcription 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(20):7391-7402.
Plakoglobin is a protein closely related to β-catenin that links desmosomal cadherins to intermediate filaments. Plakoglobin can also substitute for β-catenin in adherens junctions, providing a connection between E-cadherin and α-catenin. Association of β-catenin with E-cadherin and α-catenin is regulated by phosphorylation of specific tyrosine residues; modification of β-catenin Tyr654 and Tyr142 decreases binding to E-cadherin and α-catenin, respectively. We show here that plakoglobin can also be phosphorylated on tyrosine residues, but unlike β-catenin, this modification is not always associated with disrupted association with junctional components. Protein tyrosine kinases present distinct specificities on β-catenin and plakoglobin, and phosphorylation of β-catenin-equivalent Tyr residues of plakoglobin affects its interaction with components of desmosomes or adherens junctions differently. For instance, Src, which mainly phosphorylates Tyr86 in β-catenin, modifies Tyr643 in plakoglobin, decreasing the interaction with E-cadherin and α-catenin and increasing the interaction with the α-catenin-equivalent protein in desmosomes, desmoplakin. The tyrosine kinase Fer, which modifies β-catenin Tyr142, lessening its association with α-catenin, phosphorylates plakoglobin Tyr549 and exerts the contrary effect: it raises the binding of plakoglobin to α-catenin. These results suggest that tyrosine kinases like Src or Fer modulate desmosomes and adherens junctions differently. Our results also indicate that phosphorylation of Tyr549 and the increased binding of plakoglobin to components of adherens junctions can contribute to the upregulation of the transcriptional activity of the β-catenin-Tcf-4 complex observed in many epithelial tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC230329  PMID: 14517306
3.  Identification of the plakoglobin-binding domain in desmoglein and its role in plaque assembly and intermediate filament anchorage 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1994;127(1):151-160.
The carboxyterminal cytoplasmic portions (tails) of desmosomal cadherins of both the desmoglein (Dsg) and desmocollin type are integral components of the desmosomal plaque and are involved in desmosome assembly and the anchorage of intermediate-sized filaments. When additional Dsg tails were introduced by cDNA transfection into cultured human epithelial cells, in the form of chimeras with the aminoterminal membrane insertion domain of rat connexin32 (Co32), the resulting stably transfected cells showed a dominant-negative defect specific for desmosomal junctions: despite the continual presence of all desmosomal proteins, the endogenous desmosomes disappeared and the formation of Co32-Dsg chimeric gap junctions was inhibited. Using cell transfection in combination with immunoprecipitation techniques, we have examined a series of deletion mutants of the Dsg1 tail in Co32-Dsg chimeras. We show that upon removal of the last 262 amino acids the truncated Dsg tail still effects the binding of plakoglobin but not of detectable amounts of any catenin and induces the dominant-negative phenotype. However, further truncation or excision of the next 41 amino acids, which correspond to the highly conserved carboxyterminus of the C-domain in other cadherins, abolishes plakoglobin binding and allows desmosomes to reform. Therefore, we conclude that this short segment provides a plakoglobin-binding site and is important for plaque assembly and the specific anchorage of either actin filaments in adherens junctions or IFs in desmosomes.
PMCID: PMC2120186  PMID: 7929560
4.  The Amino-terminal Domain of Desmoplakin Binds to Plakoglobin and Clusters Desmosomal Cadherin–Plakoglobin Complexes  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;139(3):773-784.
The desmosome is a highly organized plasma membrane domain that couples intermediate filaments to the plasma membrane at regions of cell–cell adhesion. Desmosomes contain two classes of cadherins, desmogleins, and desmocollins, that bind to the cytoplasmic protein plakoglobin. Desmoplakin is a desmosomal component that plays a critical role in linking intermediate filament networks to the desmosomal plaque, and the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin targets desmoplakin to the desmosome. However, the desmosomal protein(s) that bind the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin have not been identified. To determine if the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin interact with the amino-terminal domain of desmoplakin, these proteins were co-expressed in L-cell fibroblasts, cells that do not normally express desmosomal components. When expressed in L-cells, the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin exhibited a diffuse distribution. However, in the presence of an amino-terminal desmoplakin polypeptide (DP-NTP), the desmosomal cadherins and plakoglobin were observed in punctate clusters that also contained DP-NTP. In addition, plakoglobin and DP-NTP were recruited to cell–cell interfaces in L-cells co-expressing a chimeric cadherin with the E-cadherin extracellular domain and the desmoglein-1 cytoplasmic domain, and these cells formed structures that were ultrastructurally similar to the outer plaque of the desmosome. In transient expression experiments in COS cells, the recruitment of DP-NTP to cell borders by the chimera required co-expression of plakoglobin. Plakoglobin and DP-NTP co-immunoprecipitated when extracted from L-cells, and yeast two hybrid analysis indicated that DP-NTP binds directly to plakoglobin but not Dsg1. These results identify a role for desmoplakin in organizing the desmosomal cadherin–plakoglobin complex and provide new insights into the hierarchy of protein interactions that occur in the desmosomal plaque.
PMCID: PMC2141713  PMID: 9348293
5.  A New Perspective on Intercalated Disc Organization: Implications for Heart Disease 
Adherens junctions and desmosomes are intercellular adhesive junctions and essential for the morphogenesis, differentiation, and maintenance of tissues that are subjected to high mechanical stress, including heart and skin. The different junction complexes are organized at the termini of the cardiomyocyte called the intercalated disc. Disruption of adhesive integrity via mutations in genes encoding desmosomal proteins causes an inherited heart disease, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). Besides plakoglobin, which is shared by adherens junctions and desmosomes, other desmosomal components, desmoglein-2, desmocollin-2, plakophilin-2, and desmoplakin are also present in ultrastructurally defined fascia adherens junctions of heart muscle, but not other tissues. This mixed-type of junctional structure is termed hybrid adhering junction or area composita. Desmosomal plakophilin-2 directly interacts with adherens junction protein alphaT-catenin, providing a new molecular link between the cadherin-catenin complex and desmosome. The area composita only exists in the cardiac intercalated disc of mammalian species suggesting that it evolved to strengthen mechanical coupling in the heart of higher vertebrates. The cross-talk among different junctions and their implication in the pathogenesis of ARVC are discussed in this review.
PMCID: PMC2879923  PMID: 20585598
6.  Suppression of tumorigenicity by plakoglobin: an augmenting effect of N- cadherin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1996;133(1):199-209.
Plakoglobin is a major component of the submembranal plaque of adherens junctions and desmosomes in mammalian cells. It is closely related to the Drosophila segment polarity gene armadillo which has a role in the transduction of transmembrane signals that regulate cell fate. Like its close homologue beta-catenin, plakoglobin can associate with the product of the tumor suppressor gene APC that is linked to human colon cancer. We have studied the effect of plakoglobin overexpression, and the cooperation between plakoglobin and N-cadherin, on the morphology and tumorigenic ability of cells either lacking, or expressing cadherin and alpha- and beta-catenin. Overexpression of plakoglobin in SV40- transformed 3T3 (SVT2) cells suppressed the tumorigenicity of the cells in syngeneic mice. Transfection with N-cadherin conferred an epithelial phenotype on the cell culture, but had no significant effect on the tumorigenicity of the cells. Cotransfection of plakoglobin and N- cadherin into SVT2 cells, however, was considerably more effective in tumor suppression than plakoglobin overexpression alone. Finally, transfection of plakoglobin into a human renal carcinoma cell line that expresses neither cadherins nor plakoglobin, or alpha-and beta-catenin, resulted in a dose-dependent suppression of tumor formation by these cells in nude mice. Plakoglobin, in these cells, did not exhibit junctional localization and was diffusely distributed in the cytoplasm, with a significant amount of the protein also localized in the nucleus. The results suggest that plakoglobin can efficiently suppress the tumorigenicity of cells in the presence of, or independently of the cadherin-catenin complex.
PMCID: PMC2120779  PMID: 8601608
7.  The Desmosome 
Desmosomes are intercellular junctions that tether intermediate filaments to the plasma membrane. Desmogleins and desmocollins, members of the cadherin superfamily, mediate adhesion at desmosomes. Cytoplasmic components of the desmosome associate with the desmosomal cadherin tails through a series of protein interactions, which serve to recruit intermediate filaments to sites of desmosome assembly. These desmosomal plaque components include plakoglobin and the plakophilins, members of the armadillo gene family. Linkage to the cytoskeleton is mediated by the intermediate filament binding protein, desmoplakin, which associates with both plakoglobin and plakophilins. Although desmosomes are critical for maintaining stable cell–cell adhesion, emerging evidence indicates that they are also dynamic structures that contribute to cellular processes beyond that of cell adhesion. This article outlines the structure and function of the major desmosomal proteins, and explores the contributions of this protein complex to tissue architecture and morphogenesis.
Desmosomal proteins link neighboring cells and are anchored to intermediate filaments. They are essential for stable adhesion and play important roles in morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2742091  PMID: 20066089
8.  The binding of plakoglobin to desmosomal cadherins: patterns of binding sites and topogenic potential 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1996;133(2):359-369.
Plakoglobin is the only protein that occurs in the cytoplasmic plaques of all known adhering junctions and has been shown to be crucially involved in the formation and maintenance of desmosomes anchoring intermediate-sized filaments (IFs) by its interaction with the desmosomal cadherins, desmoglein (Dsg), and desmocollin (Dsc). This topogenic importance of plakoglobin is now directly shown in living cells as well as in binding assays in vitro. We show that, in transfected human A-431 carcinoma cells, a chimeric protein combining the vesicle-forming transmembrane glycoprotein synaptophysin, with the complete human plakoglobin sequence, is sorted to small vesicles many of which associate with desmosomal plaques and their attached IFs. Immunoprecipitation experiments have further revealed that the chimeric plakoglobin-containing transmembrane molecules of these vesicles are tightly bound to Dsg and Dsc but not to endogenous plakoglobin, thus demonstrating that the binding of plakoglobin to desmosomal cadherins does not require its soluble state and is strong enough to attach large structures such as vesicles to desmosomes. To identify the binding domains and the mechanisms involved in the interaction of plakoglobin with desmosomal cadherins, we have developed direct binding assays in vitro in which plakoglobin or parts thereof, produced by recombinant DNA technology in E. coli, are exposed to molecules containing the "C- domains" of several cadherins. These assays have shown that plakoglobin associates most tightly with the C-domain of Dsg, to a lesser degree with that of Dsc and only weakly with the C-domain of E-cadherin. Three separate segments of plakoglobin containing various numbers of the so- called arm repeats exhibit distinct binding to the desmosomal cadherins comparable in strength to that of the entire molecule. The binding pattern of plakoglobin segments in vitro is compared with that in vivo. Paradoxically, in vitro some internal plakoglobin fragments bind even better to the C-domain of E-cadherin than the entire molecule, indicating that elements exist in native plakoglobin that interfere with the interaction of this protein with its various cadherin partners.
PMCID: PMC2120792  PMID: 8609168
9.  Cardiac Tissue-Restricted Deletion of Plakoglobin Results in Progressive Cardiomyopathy and Activation of β-Catenin Signaling▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(6):1134-1144.
Mutations in the plakoglobin (JUP) gene have been identified in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) patients. However, the mechanisms underlying plakoglobin dysfunction involved in the pathogenesis of ARVC remain poorly understood. Plakoglobin is a component of both desmosomes and adherens junctions located at the intercalated disc (ICD) of cardiomyocytes, where it functions to link cadherins to the cytoskeleton. In addition, plakoglobin functions as a signaling protein via its ability to modulate the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. To investigate the role of plakoglobin in ARVC, we generated an inducible cardiorestricted knockout (CKO) of the plakoglobin gene in mice. Plakoglobin CKO mice exhibited progressive loss of cardiac myocytes, extensive inflammatory infiltration, fibrous tissue replacement, and cardiac dysfunction similar to those of ARVC patients. Desmosomal proteins from the ICD were decreased, consistent with altered desmosome ultrastructure in plakoglobin CKO hearts. Despite gap junction remodeling, plakoglobin CKO hearts were refractory to induced arrhythmias. Ablation of plakoglobin caused increase β-catenin stabilization associated with activated AKT and inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3β. Finally, β-catenin/TCF transcriptional activity may contribute to the cardiac hypertrophy response in plakoglobin CKO mice. This novel model of ARVC demonstrates for the first time how plakoglobin affects β-catenin activity in the heart and its implications for disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3067899  PMID: 21245375
Developmental biology  2008;319(2):298-308.
Tissue morphogenesis and maintenance of complex tissue architecture requires a variety of cell-cell junctions. Typically, cells adhere to one another through cadherin junctions, both adherens and desmosomal junctions, strengthened by association with cytoskeletal networks during development. Both β- and γ-catenins are reported to link classical cadherins to the actin cytoskeleton, but only γ-catenin binds to the desmosomal cadherins, which links them to intermediate filaments through its association with desmoplakin. Here we provide the first biochemical evidence that, in vivo, γ-catenin also mediates interactions between classical cadherins and the intermediate filament cytoskeleton, linked through desmoplakin. In the developing lens, which has no desmosomes, we discovered that vimentin became linked to N-cadherin complexes in a differentiation-state specific manner. This newly identified junctional complex was tissue specific but not unique to the lens. To determine whether in this junction N-cadherin was linked to vimentin through γ-catenin or β-catenin we developed an innovative “double” immunoprecipitation technique. This approach made possible, for the first time, the separation of N-cadherin/γ-catenin from N-cadherin/β-catenin complexes and the identification of multiple members of each of these isolated protein complexes. The study revealed that vimentin was associated exclusively with N-cadherin/γ-catenin junctions. Assembly of this novel class of cadherin junctions was coincident with establishment of the unique cytoarchitecture of lens fiber cells. In addition, γ-catenin had a distinctive localization to the vertices of these hexagonally shaped differentiating lens fiber cells, a region devoid of actin; while β-catenin co-localized with actin at lateral cell interfaces. We believe this novel vimentin-linked N-cadherin/γ-catenin junction provides the tensile strength necessary to establish and maintain structural integrity in tissues that lack desmosomes.
PMCID: PMC2518943  PMID: 18514185
γ-catenin; cadherin; intermediate filament; vimentin; lens development; lens fiber cell differentiation
11.  Protein zero, a nervous system adhesion molecule, triggers epithelial reversion in host carcinoma cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1995;131(2):465-482.
Protein zero (P(o)) is the immunoglobulin gene superfamily glycoprotein that mediates the self-adhesion of the Schwann cell plasma membrane that yields compact myelin. HeLa is a poorly differentiated carcinoma cell line that has lost characteristic morphological features of the cervical epithelium from which it originated. Normally, HeLa cells are not self-adherent. However, when P(o) is artificially expressed in this line, cells rapidly aggregate, and P(o) concentrates specifically at cell-cell contact sites. Rows of desmosomes are generated at these interfaces, the plasma membrane localization of cingulin and ZO-1, proteins that have been shown to be associated with tight junctions, is substantially increased, and cytokeratins coalesce into a cohesive intracellular network. Immunofluorescence patterns for the adherens junction proteins N-cadherin, alpha-catenin, and vinculin, and the desmosomal polypeptides desmoplakin, desmocollin, and desmoglein, are also markedly enhanced at the cell surface. Our data demonstrate that obligatory cell-cell adhesion, which in this case is initially brought about by the homophilic association of P(o) molecules across the intercellular cleft, triggers pronounced augmentation of the normally sluggish or sub-basal cell adhesion program in HeLa cells, culminating in suppression of the transformed state and reversion of the monolayer to an epithelioid phenotype. Furthermore, this response is apparently accompanied by an increase in mRNA and protein levels for desmoplakin and N-cadherin which are normally associated with epithelial junctions. Our conclusions are supported by analyses of ten proteins we examined immunochemically (P(o), cingulin, ZO-1, desmoplakin, desmoglein, desmocollin, N-cadherin, alpha-catenin, vinculin, and cytokeratin-18), and by quantitative polymerase chain reactions to measure relative amounts of desmoplakin and N-cadherin mRNAs. P(o) has no known signaling properties; the dramatic phenotypic changes we observed are highly likely to have developed in direct response to P(o)-induced cell adhesion. More generally, the ability of this "foreign" membrane adhesion protein to stimulate desmosome and adherens junction formation by augmenting well-studied cadherin-based adhesion mechanisms raises the possibility that perhaps any bona fide cell adhesion molecule, when functionally expressed, can engage common intracellular pathways and trigger reversion of a carcinoma to an epithelial-like phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2199992  PMID: 7593172
12.  Continual assembly of half-desmosomal structures in the absence of cell contacts and their frustrated endocytosis: a coordinated Sisyphus cycle 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1995;131(3):745-760.
It is widely assumed that the coordinate assembly of desmosomal cadherins and plaque proteins into desmosome-typical plaque-coated membrane domains, capable of anchoring intermediate-sized filaments (IF), requires cell-to-cell contacts and a critical extracellular Ca2+ concentration. To test this hypothesis we studied several cell lines grown for years in media with less than 0.1 mM Ca2+ to steady-state low Ca2+ medium (LCM) conditions, particularly the human keratinocyte line HaCaT devoid of any junctional cell contact (HaCaT-L cells). Using immunolocalization and vesicle fractionation techniques, we found that the transmembrane glycoprotein, desmoglein (Dsg), colocalized with the plaque proteins, desmoplakin and plakoglobin. The sites of coassembly of desmosomal molecules in HaCaT-L cells as well as in HaCaT cells directly brought into LCM were identified as asymmetric plaque-coated plasma membrane domains (half-desmosomes) or as special plaque- associated cytoplasmic vesicles, most of which had formed endocytotically. The surface exposure of Dsg in these half-desmosomes was demonstrated by the binding, in vivo, of antibodies specific for an extracellular Dsg segment which also could cross-bridge them into symmetric quasi-desmosomes. Otherwise, these half-desmosomes were shown in LCM to be taken up endocytotically. Half-desmosomal assemblies were also seen in uncoupled cells in normal Ca2+ medium. We conclude that, in the absence of intercellular contacts, assembly of desmosomal proteins at the cell surface takes place, resulting in transient half- desmosomes which then, in LCM and without a stable partner connection to the adjacent cell, can be endocytotically resumed. This frustrated cycle of synthesis and assembly maintains an ensemble of molecules characteristic of epithelial differentiation and the potential to form desmosomes, even when the final junctional structure cannot be formed. We propose that these half-desmosomal structures are general cell structures of epithelial and other desmosome-forming cells.
PMCID: PMC2120618  PMID: 7593194
13.  Structure of artificial and natural VE-cadherin-based adherens junctions 
Biochemical Society Transactions  2008;36(Pt 2):189-193.
In vascular endothelium, adherens junctions between endothelial cells are composed of VE-cadherin, an adhesive receptor crucial for the proper assembly of vascular structures and the maintenance of vascular integrity. As classical cadherins, VE-cadherin links endothelial cells together by homophilic interactions mediated by its extracellular part and associates intracellularly with actin cytoskeleton via catenins. Although, from structural crystallographic data, a dimeric structure arranged in a trans orientation emerge as a potential mechanism of cell-cell adhesion, the cadherin organization within adherens junction remains under controversy. Concerning VE cadherin, its extracellular part possesses the capacity to self-associate in solution as hexamers consisting of three antiparallel cadherin dimers. VE-cadherin based adherens junctions were reconstituted in vitro by assembly of VE-EC1-4 hexamer at the surfaces of liposomes. The artificial adherens junctions revealed by Cryo-Electron Microscopy appear as two dimensional self-assembly of hexameric structures. This cadherin organization is reminiscent of that found in native desmosomal junctions. Further structural studies performed on native VE-cadherin junctions would provide a better understanding of the cadherin organization within adherens junction.
Homophilic interactions between cadherins are intracellularly strengthened by connection to the actin cytoskeleton. Recently, we have discovered that annexin 2, an actin binding protein connects the VE-cadherin-catenin complex to the actin cytoskeleton. This novel link is labile and promotes the endothelial cell switch between a quiescent to an angiogenic state.
PMCID: PMC2798065  PMID: 18363560
Actins; metabolism; Adherens Junctions; metabolism; ultrastructure; Animals; Cadherins; chemistry; physiology; Cell Adhesion; Cryoelectron Microscopy; methods; Endothelium, Vascular; metabolism; ultrastructure; Humans; Membranes, Artificial; Models, Molecular; Cryoelectron microscopy; VE cadherin; 3D reconstruction; endothelial junction; annexin 2
14.  Targeted mutation of plakoglobin in mice reveals essential functions of desmosomes in the embryonic heart 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1996;135(1):215-225.
Plakoglobin (gamma-catenin), a member of the armadillo family of proteins, is a constituent of the cytoplasmic plaque of desmosomes as well as of other adhering cell junctions, and is involved in anchorage of cytoskeletal filaments to specific cadherins. We have generated a null mutation of the plakoglobin gene in mice. Homozygous -/- mutant animals die between days 12-16 of embryogenesis due to defects in heart function. Often, heart ventricles burst and blood floods the pericard. This tissue instability correlates with the absence of desmosomes in heart, but not in epithelia organs. Instead, extended adherens junctions are formed in the heart, which contain desmosomal proteins, i.e., desmoplakin. Thus, plakoglobin is an essential component of myocardiac desmosomes and seems to play a crucial role in the sorting out of desmosomal and adherens junction components, and consequently in the architecture of intercalated discs and the stabilization of heart tissue.
PMCID: PMC2121015  PMID: 8858175
15.  Defining the Interactions Between Intermediate Filaments and Desmosomes  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1998;141(5):1229-1241.
Desmoplakin (DP), plakoglobin (PG), and plakophilin 1 (PP1) are desmosomal components lacking a transmembrane domain, thus making them candidate linker proteins for connecting intermediate filaments and desmosomes. Using deletion and site-directed mutagenesis, we show that remarkably, removal of ∼1% of DP's sequence obliterates its ability to associate with desmosomes. Conversely, when linked to a foreign protein, as few as 86 NH2-terminal DP residues are sufficient to target to desmosomes efficiently. In in vitro overlay assays, the DP head specifically associates with itself and with desmocollin 1a (Dsc1a). In similar overlay assays, PP1 binds to DP and Dsc1a, and to a lesser extent, desmoglein 1 (Dsg1), while PG binds to Dsg1 and more weakly to Dsc1a and DP. Interestingly, like DP, PG and PP1 associate with epidermal keratins, although PG is considerably weaker in its ability to do so. As judged by overlay assays, the amino terminal head domain of type II keratins appears to have a special importance in establishing these connections. Taken together, our findings provide new insights into the complexities of the links between desmosomes and intermediate filaments (IFs). Our results suggest a model whereby at desmosome sites within dividing epidermal cells, DP and PG anchor to desmosomal cadherins and to each other, forming an ordered array of nontransmembrane proteins that then bind to keratin IFs. As epidermal cells differentiate, PP1 is added as a molecular reinforcement to the plaque, enhancing anchorage to IFs and accounting at least partially for the increase in numbers and stability of desmosomes in suprabasal cells.
PMCID: PMC2137181  PMID: 9606214
16.  The cell–cell junctions of mammalian testes: I. The adhering junctions of the seminiferous epithelium represent special differentiation structures 
Cell and Tissue Research  2014;357(3):645-665.
The seminiferous tubules and the excurrent ducts of the mammalian testis are physiologically separated from the mesenchymal tissues and the blood and lymph system by a special structural barrier to paracellular translocations of molecules and particles: the “blood–testis barrier”, formed by junctions connecting Sertoli cells with each other and with spermatogonial cells. In combined biochemical as well as light and electron microscopical studies we systematically determine the molecules located in the adhering junctions of adult mammalian (human, bovine, porcine, murine, i.e., rat and mouse) testis. We show that the seminiferous epithelium does not contain desmosomes, or “desmosome-like” junctions, nor any of the desmosome-specific marker molecules and that the adhering junctions of tubules and ductules are fundamentally different. While the ductules contain classical epithelial cell layers with E-cadherin-based adherens junctions (AJs) and typical desmosomes, the Sertoli cells of the tubules lack desmosomes and “desmosome-like” junctions but are connected by morphologically different forms of AJs. These junctions are based on N-cadherin anchored in cytoplasmic plaques, which in some subforms appear thick and dense but in other subforms contain only scarce and loosely arranged plaque structures formed by α- and β-catenin, proteins p120, p0071 and plakoglobin, together with a member of the striatin family and also, in rodents, the proteins ZO-1 and myozap. These N-cadherin-based AJs also include two novel types of junctions: the “areae adhaerentes”, i.e., variously-sized, often very large cell-cell contacts and small sieve-plate-like AJs perforated by cytoplasm-to-cytoplasm channels of 5–7 nm internal diameter (“cribelliform junctions”). We emphasize the unique character of this epithelium that totally lacks major epithelial marker molecules and structures such as keratin filaments and desmosomal elements as well as EpCAM- and PERP-containing junctions. We also discuss the nature, development and possible functions of these junctions.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00441-014-1906-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4148596  PMID: 24907851
Adherens junction; Desmosomes; Sertoli cells; Seminiferous tubules; Areae adhaerentes; Cribelliform junctions
17.  Sec3-containing Exocyst Complex Is Required for Desmosome Assembly in Mammalian Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(1):152-164.
In epithelial cells, Sec3 associates with Exocyst complexes enriched at desmosomes and centrosomes, distinct from Sec6/8 complexes at the apical junctional complex. RNAi-mediated suppression of Sec3 alters trafficking of desmosomal cadherins and impairs desmosome morphology and function, without noticeable effect on adherens junctions.
The Exocyst is a conserved multisubunit complex involved in the docking of post-Golgi transport vesicles to sites of membrane remodeling during cellular processes such as polarization, migration, and division. In mammalian epithelial cells, Exocyst complexes are recruited to nascent sites of cell–cell contact in response to E-cadherin–mediated adhesive interactions, and this event is an important early step in the assembly of intercellular junctions. Sec3 has been hypothesized to function as a spatial landmark for the development of polarity in budding yeast, but its role in epithelial cells has not been investigated. Here, we provide evidence in support of a function for a Sec3-containing Exocyst complex in the assembly or maintenance of desmosomes, adhesive junctions that link intermediate filament networks to sites of strong intercellular adhesion. We show that Sec3 associates with a subset of Exocyst complexes that are enriched at desmosomes. Moreover, we found that membrane recruitment of Sec3 is dependent on cadherin-mediated adhesion but occurs later than that of the known Exocyst components Sec6 and Sec8 that are recruited to adherens junctions. RNA interference-mediated suppression of Sec3 expression led to specific impairment of both the morphology and function of desmosomes, without noticeable effect on adherens junctions. These results suggest that two different exocyst complexes may function in basal–lateral membrane trafficking and will enable us to better understand how exocytosis is spatially organized during development of epithelial plasma membrane domains.
PMCID: PMC2801709  PMID: 19889837
18.  Breaking the connection: displacement of the desmosomal plaque protein desmoplakin from cell-cell interfaces disrupts anchorage of intermediate filament bundles and alters intercellular junction assembly 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1996;134(4):985-1001.
The desmosomal plaque protein desmoplakin (DP), located at the juncture between the intermediate filament (IF) network and the cytoplasmic tails of the transmembrane desmosomal cadherins, has been proposed to link IF to the desmosomal plaque. Consistent with this hypothesis, previous studies of individual DP domains indicated that the DP COOH terminus associates with IF networks whereas NH2-terminal sequences govern the association of DP with the desmosomal plaque. Nevertheless, it had not yet been demonstrated that DP is required for attaching IF to the desmosome. To test this proposal directly, we generated A431 cell lines stably expressing DP NH2-terminal polypeptides, which were expected to compete with endogenous DP during desmosome assembly. As these polypeptides lacked the COOH-terminal IF-binding domain, this competition should result in the loss of IF anchorage if DP is required for linking IF to the desmosomal plaque. In such cells, a 70-kD DP NH2- terminal polypeptide (DP-NTP) colocalized at cell-cell interfaces with desmosomal proteins. As predicted, the distribution of endogenous DP was severely perturbed. At cell-cell borders where endogenous DP was undetectable by immunofluorescence, there was a striking absence of attached tonofibrils (IF bundles). Furthermore, DP-NTP assembled into ultrastructurally identifiable junctional structures lacking associated IF bundles. Surprisingly, immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy indicated that adherens junction components were coassembled into these structures along with desmosomal components and DP-NTP. These results indicate that DP is required for anchoring IF networks to desmosomes and furthermore suggest that the DP-IF complex is important for governing the normal spatial segregation of adhesive junction components during their assembly into distinct structures.
PMCID: PMC2120955  PMID: 8769422
19.  Plakophilin 2 Couples Actomyosin Remodeling to Desmosomal Plaque Assembly via RhoA 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(16):2844-2859.
The desmosomal armadillo protein plakophilin 2 (PKP2) regulates cell contact-initiated cortical actin remodeling through the regulation of RhoA localization and activity to couple adherens junction maturation with desmosomal plaque assembly.
Plakophilin 2 (PKP2), an armadillo family member closely related to p120 catenin (p120ctn), is a constituent of the intercellular adhesive junction, the desmosome. We previously showed that PKP2 loss prevents the incorporation of desmosome precursors enriched in the plaque protein desmoplakin (DP) into newly forming desmosomes, in part by disrupting PKC-dependent regulation of DP assembly competence. On the basis of the observation that DP incorporation into junctions is cytochalasin D–sensitive, here we ask whether PKP2 may also contribute to actin-dependent regulation of desmosome assembly. We demonstrate that PKP2 knockdown impairs cortical actin remodeling after cadherin ligation, without affecting p120ctn expression or localization. Our data suggest that these defects result from the failure of activated RhoA to localize at intercellular interfaces after cell–cell contact and an elevation of cellular RhoA, stress fibers, and other indicators of contractile signaling in squamous cell lines and atrial cardiomyocytes. Consistent with these observations, RhoA activation accelerated DP redistribution to desmosomes during the first hour of junction assembly, whereas sustained RhoA activity compromised desmosome plaque maturation. Together with our previous findings, these data suggest that PKP2 may functionally link RhoA- and PKC-dependent pathways to drive actin reorganization and regulate DP–IF interactions required for normal desmosome assembly.
PMCID: PMC2921118  PMID: 20554761
20.  Protein Kinase C Activation Upregulates Intercellular Adhesion of α-Catenin–negative Human Colon Cancer Cell Variants via Induction of Desmosomes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;137(5):1103-1116.
The α-catenin molecule links E-cadherin/ β-catenin or E-cadherin/plakoglobin complexes to the actin cytoskeleton. We studied several invasive human colon carcinoma cell lines lacking α-catenin. They showed a solitary and rounded morphotype that correlated with increased invasiveness. These round cell variants acquired a more normal epithelial phenotype upon transfection with an α-catenin expression plasmid, but also upon treatment with the protein kinase C (PKC) activator 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Video registrations showed that the cells started to establish elaborated intercellular junctions within 30 min after addition of TPA. Interestingly, this normalizing TPA effect was not associated with α-catenin induction. Classical and confocal immunofluorescence showed only minor TPA-induced changes in E-cadherin staining. In contrast, desmosomal and tight junctional proteins were dramatically rearranged, with a conversion from cytoplasmic clusters to obvious concentration at cell–cell contacts and exposition at the exterior cell surface. Electron microscopical observations revealed the TPA-induced appearance of typical desmosomal plaques. TPA-restored cell–cell adhesion was E-cadherin dependent as demonstrated by a blocking antibody in a cell aggregation assay. Addition of an antibody against the extracellular part of desmoglein-2 blocked the TPA effect, too. Remarkably, the combination of anti–E-cadherin and anti-desmoglein antibodies synergistically inhibited the TPA effect.
Our studies show that it is possible to bypass the need for normal α-catenin expression to establish tight intercellular adhesion by epithelial cells. Apparently, the underlying mechanism comprises upregulation of desmosomes and tight junctions by activation of the PKC signaling pathway, whereas E-cadherin remains essential for basic cell–cell adhesion, even in the absence of α-catenin.
PMCID: PMC2136213  PMID: 9166410
21.  Pervanadate stabilizes desmosomes 
Cell Adhesion & Migration  2008;2(3):161-166.
Desmosomes are intercellular junctions responsible for strong cell-cell adhesion in epithelia and cardiac muscle. Numerous studies have shown that the other major type of epithelial cell adhesion, the adherens junction, is destabilized by src-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of two of its principal components, E-cadherin and β-catenin. Here we show that treatment of epithelial cells with the potent tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor sodium pervanadate causes tyrosine phosphorylation of the major desmosomal components desmoglein 2 and plakoglobin in both the non-ionic detergent soluble and insoluble cell fractions and, surprisingly, stabilizes desmosomal adhesion, inducing the hyper-adhesive form normally found in tissues and confluent cell sheets. Taken together with the few other studies on desmosomes these results suggest that the effects of tyrosine phosphorylation on desmosomal adhesion are complex.
PMCID: PMC2634090  PMID: 19262118
desmosome; cell-cell adhesion; intercellular junction; tyrosine phosphorylation; pervanadate; desmoglein; plakoglobin
22.  Direct Ca2+-dependent Heterophilic Interaction between Desmosomal Cadherins, Desmoglein and Desmocollin, Contributes to Cell–Cell Adhesion 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;138(1):193-201.
Human fibrosarcoma cells, HT-1080, feature extensive adherens junctions, lack mature desmosomes, and express a single known desmosomal protein, Desmoglein 2 (Dsg2). Transfection of these cells with bovine Desmocollin 1a (Dsc1a) caused dramatic changes in the subcellular distribution of endogenous Dsg2. Both cadherins clustered in the areas of the adherens junctions, whereas only a minor portion of Dsg2 was seen in these areas in the parental cells. Deletion mapping showed that intact extracellular cadherin-like repeats of Dsc1a (Arg1-Thr170) are required for the translocation of Dsg2. Deletion of the intracellular C-domain that mediates the interaction of Dsc1a with plakoglobin, or the CSI region that is involved in the binding to desmoplakin, had no effect. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments of cell lysates stably expressing Dsc1a with anti-Dsc or -Dsg antibodies demonstrate that the desmosomal cadherins, Dsg2 and Dsc1a, are involved in a direct Ca2+-dependent interaction. This conclusion was further supported by the results of solid phase binding experiments. These showed that the Dsc1a fragment containing cadherin-like repeats 1 and 2 binds directly to the extracellular portion of Dsg in a Ca2+-dependent manner. The contribution of the Dsg/ Dsc interaction to cell–cell adhesion was tested by coculturing HT-1080 cells expressing Dsc1a with HT-1080 cells lacking Dsc but expressing myc-tagged plakoglobin (MPg). In the latter cells, MPg and the endogenous Dsg form stable complexes. The observed specific coimmunoprecipitation of MPg by anti-Dsc antibodies in coculture indicates that an intercellular interaction between Dsc1 and Dsg is involved in cell–cell adhesion.
PMCID: PMC2139935  PMID: 9214392
23.  Desmosomal cadherins utilize distinct kinesins for assembly into desmosomes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(7):1185-1203.
Desmogleins and desmocollins are transported to the plasma membrane by different kinesin motors, providing a potential mechanism to tailor desmosome structure and function during development and epithelial remodeling.
The desmosomal cadherins, desmogleins (Dsgs) and desmocollins (Dscs), comprise the adhesive core of intercellular junctions known as desmosomes. Although these adhesion molecules are known to be critical for tissue integrity, mechanisms that coordinate their trafficking into intercellular junctions to regulate their proper ratio and distribution are unknown. We demonstrate that Dsg2 and Dsc2 both exhibit microtubule-dependent transport in epithelial cells but use distinct motors to traffic to the plasma membrane. Functional interference with kinesin-1 blocked Dsg2 transport, resulting in the assembly of Dsg2-deficient junctions with minimal impact on distribution of Dsc2 or desmosomal plaque components. In contrast, inhibiting kinesin-2 prevented Dsc2 movement and decreased its plasma membrane accumulation without affecting Dsg2 trafficking. Either kinesin-1 or -2 deficiency weakened intercellular adhesion, despite the maintenance of adherens junctions and other desmosome components at the plasma membrane. Differential regulation of desmosomal cadherin transport could provide a mechanism to tailor adhesion strength during tissue morphogenesis and remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3246898  PMID: 22184201
24.  Differential Mechanisms of LEF/TCF Family-Dependent Transcriptional Activation by β-Catenin and Plakoglobin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(12):4238-4252.
β-Catenin and plakoglobin are highly homologous components of cell-cell adherens junctions linking cadherin receptors to the actin cytoskeleton. β-Catenin, in addition, activates transcription by forming a complex with LEF/TCF family transcription factors in the nucleus. Plakoglobin can also bind to LEF-1 and, when overexpressed in mammalian cells, enhances LEF-1-directed transcription. Plakoglobin overexpression, however, results in the elevation and nuclear translocation of endogenous β-catenin. We show here, by DNA mobility shift analysis, that the formation of a plakoglobin-LEF/TCF-DNA complex in vitro is very inefficient compared to a complex containing β-catenin-LEF-DNA. Moreover, in plakoglobin-transfected cells plakoglobin-LEF/TCF-DNA complexes were not formed; rather, the endogenous β-catenin, whose level is elevated by plakoglobin transfection, formed a β-catenin–LEF–DNA complex. Removal of the N- and C-terminal domains of both β-catenin and plakoglobin (leaving the armadillo repeat domain intact) induced plakoglobin-LEF-DNA complex formation and also enhanced β-catenin–LEF–DNA complexing, both with in vitro-translated components and in transfected cells. Transfection with these truncated catenins increased endogenous β-catenin levels, but the truncated catenins acted as dominant-negative inhibitors of β-catenin-driven transcription by forming transcriptionally inactive complexes with LEF-1. When these catenin mutants were prevented from entering the nucleus, by their fusion to the connexin transmembrane domain, they indirectly activated transcription by increasing endogenous β-catenin levels. These results suggest that overexpression of plakoglobin does not directly activate transcription and that formation of catenin-LEF-DNA complexes is negatively regulated by the catenin N- and C-terminal domains.
PMCID: PMC85792  PMID: 10825188
25.  Organization of desmosomal plaque proteins in cells growing at low calcium concentrations 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1988;107(3):1049-1063.
Desmosomes are not formed in epithelial cell cultures growing in media with low (less than or equal to 0.1 mM) concentrations of Ca2+ (LCM) but appear rapidly upon shift to media of normal calcium concentrations (NCM). Previous authors using immunolocalization of desmoplakin, a marker protein for the desmosomal plaque, in LCM-grown cells have interpreted positively stained, dense, cytoplasmic aggregates on intermediate filaments (IF) bundles as preformed plaque units which upon NCM shift would move to the plasma membrane and contribute to desmosome formation. Studying various cell cultures, including primary mouse keratinocytes and human A-431 cells, we show that most, probably all, desmoplakin-positive aggregates in LCM-grown cells are associated with membranous structures, mostly vesicles, and also contain other desmosomal markers, including desmoglein, a transmembrane glycoprotein. We interpret such vesicles as residual desmosome-derived domains endocytosed upon cell dissociation. Only keratinocytes grown for long times (2-4 wk) in LCM are practically free from such vesicles. In addition, we demonstrate that certain cells such as A-431 cells, when passaged in LCM and in the absence of stable junctions, are able to continually assemble "half-desmosomes" on the plasma membrane which in turn can be endocytosed as plaque-bearing vesicles. We also show that in LCM the synthesis of several desmosomal proteins (desmoplakins I and II, plakoglobin, desmoglein, "band 6 protein") continues and that most of the plaque protein, desmoplakin, is diffusely spread over the cytoplasm, apparently in a soluble monodisperse form of approximately 9S. From our results we propose that the plaque proteins occur in small, discrete, diffusible entities in the cytoplasm, in concentrations that are relatively high in LCM and low in NCM, from which they assemble directly, i.e., without intermediate precursor aggregates on IFs in the cytoplasm, on certain plasma membrane domains in a Ca2+ dependent process.
PMCID: PMC2115290  PMID: 2458360

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