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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
γ-catenin; cadherin; intermediate filament; vimentin; lens development; lens fiber cell differentiation
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.
Proper development and tissue maintenance requires cell-cell adhesion structures, which serve diverse and crucial roles in tissue morphogenesis. Epithelial tissues have three main types of cell-cell junctions: tight junctions, which play a major role in barrier formation, and adherens junctions and desmosomes, which provide mechanical stability and organize the underlying cytoskeleton. Our current understanding of adhesion function is hindered by a lack of tools and methods to image junctions in mammals. To better understand the dynamics of adhesion in tissues we have created a knock-in ZO-1-GFP mouse and a BAC-transgenic mouse expressing desmoplakin I-GFP. We performed fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) experiments to quantify the turnover rates of the tight junction protein ZO-1, the adherens junction protein E-cadherin, and the desmosomal protein desmoplakin in the epidermis. Proteins at each type of junction are remarkably stable in the epidermis, in contrast to the high observed mobility of E-cadherin and ZO-1 at adherens junctions and tight junctions, respectively, in cultured cells. Our data demonstrate that there are additional mechanisms for stabilizing junctions in tissues that are not modeled by cell culture.
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.
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.
desmosome; cell-cell adhesion; intercellular junction; tyrosine phosphorylation; pervanadate; desmoglein; plakoglobin
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.
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.
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
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.
Classical cadherins mediate specific adhesion at intercellular adherens junctions. Interactions between cadherin ectodomains from apposed cells mediate cell–cell contact, whereas the intracellular region functionally links cadherins to the underlying cytoskeleton. Structural, biophysical, and biochemical studies have provided important insights into the mechanism and specificity of cell–cell adhesion by classical cadherins and their interplay with the cytoskeleton. Adhesive binding arises through exchange of β strands between the first extracellular cadherin domains (EC1) of partner cadherins from adjacent cells. This “strand-swap” binding mode is common to classical and desmosomal cadherins, but sequence alignments suggest that other cadherins will bind differently. The intracellular region of classical cadherins binds to p120 and β-catenin, and β-catenin binds to the F-actin binding protein α-catenin. Rather than stably bridging β-catenin to actin, it appears that α-catenin actively regulates the actin cytoskeleton at cadherin-based cell–cell contacts.
Cadherins on neighboring cells adhere to each other by “strand swapping.” Catenins were thought to link cadherins to actin but may instead have a regulatory role.
Desmosomes are intercellular adhesive junctions of epithelial cells that contain two major transmembrane components, the desmogleins (Dsg) and desmocollins (Dsc), which are cadherin-type cell–cell adhesion molecules and are anchored to intermediate filaments of keratin through interactions with plakoglobin and desmoplakin. Desmosomes play an important role in maintaining the proper structure and barrier function of the epidermis and mucous epithelia. Four Dsg isoforms have been identified to date, Dsg1–Dsg4, and are involved in several skin and heart diseases. Dsg1 and Dsg3 are the two major Dsg isoforms in the skin and mucous membranes, and are targeted by IgG autoantibodies in pemphigus, an autoimmune disease of the skin and mucous membranes. Dsg1 is also targeted by exfoliative toxin (ET) released by Staphylococcus aureus in the infectious skin diseases bullous impetigo and staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS). ET is a unique serine protease that shows lock and key specificity to Dsg1. Dsg2 is expressed in all tissues possessing desmosomes, including simple epithelia and myocardia, and mutations in this gene are responsible for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia. Dsg4 plays an important adhesive role mainly in hair follicles, and Dsg4 mutations cause abnormal hair development. Recently, an active disease model for pemphigus was generated by a unique approach using autoantigen-deficient mice that do not acquire tolerance against the defective autoantigen. Adoptive transfer of Dsg3−/− lymphocytes into mice expressing Dsg3 induces stable anti-Dsg3 IgG production with development of the pemphigus phenotype. This mouse model is a valuable tool with which to investigate immunological mechanisms of harmful IgG autoantibody production in pemphigus. Further investigation of desmoglein molecules will continue to provide insight into the unsolved pathophysiological mechanisms of diseases and aid in the development of novel therapeutic strategies with minimal side effects.
cadherin; pemphigus; impetigo; SSSS; mouse model; ELISA
Desmosomes are patch-like intercellular adhering junctions (“maculae adherentes”), which, in concert with the related adherens junctions, provide the mechanical strength to intercellular adhesion. Therefore, it is not surprising that desmosomes are abundant in tissues subjected to significant mechanical stress such as stratified epithelia and myocardium. Desmosomal adhesion is based on the Ca2+-dependent, homo- and heterophilic transinteraction of cadherin-type adhesion molecules. Desmosomal cadherins are anchored to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton by adaptor proteins of the armadillo and plakin families. Desmosomes are dynamic structures subjected to regulation and are therefore targets of signalling pathways, which control their molecular composition and adhesive properties. Moreover, evidence is emerging that desmosomal components themselves take part in outside-in signalling under physiologic and pathologic conditions. Disturbed desmosomal adhesion contributes to the pathogenesis of a number of diseases such as pemphigus, which is caused by autoantibodies against desmosomal cadherins. Beside pemphigus, desmosome-associated diseases are caused by other mechanisms such as genetic defects or bacterial toxins. Because most of these diseases affect the skin, desmosomes are interesting not only for cell biologists who are inspired by their complex structure and molecular composition, but also for clinical physicians who are confronted with patients suffering from severe blistering skin diseases such as pemphigus. To develop disease-specific therapeutic approaches, more insights into the molecular composition and regulation of desmosomes are required.
Desmosomes; Desmogleins; Pemphigus; Autoantibodies; Steric hindrance; Desmoglein compensation
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.
The contribution of adherens junction inactivation, typically by downregulation or mutation of the transmembrane core component E-cadherin, to cancer progression is well recognized. In contrast, the role of the desmosomal cadherin components of the related cell-cell adhesion junction, the desmosome, in cancer development has not been well explored. Here, we use mouse models to probe the functional role of desmosomal cadherins in carcinogenesis. Because mice lacking the desmosomal cadherin Desmoglein 3 (Dsg3) have revealed a crucial role for Dsg3 in cell-cell adhesion in stratified epithelia, we investigate the consequence of Dsg3 loss in two models of skin carcinogenesis. First, using Dsg3−/− keratinocytes, we show that these cells display adhesion defects in vitro and compromised tumor growth in allograft assays, suggesting that Dsg3 enables tumor formation in certain settings. In contrast, using an autochthonous model for SCC development in response to chronic UVB treatment, we discover a surprising lack of enhanced tumorigenesis in Dsg3−/− mice relative to controls, unlike mice lacking the desmosomal component Perp. Accordingly, there is no defect in the apoptotic response to UVB or enhanced immune cell infiltration upon Dsg3 loss that could promote tumorigenesis. Thus, Dsg3 does not display a clear function as a tumor suppressor in these mouse skin cancer models. Continued unraveling of the roles of Dsg3 and other desmosomal constituents in carcinogenesis in different contexts will be important for ultimately improving cancer diagnosis, prognostication, and treatment.
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.
Intestinal epithelial intercellular junctions regulate barrier properties, and they have been linked to epithelial differentiation and programmed cell death (apoptosis). However, mechanisms regulating these processes are poorly defined. Desmosomes are critical elements of intercellular junctions; they are punctate structures made up of transmembrane desmosomal cadherins termed desmoglein-2 (Dsg2) and desmocollin-2 (Dsc2) that affiliate with the underlying intermediate filaments via linker proteins to provide mechanical strength to epithelia. In the present study, we generated an antibody, AH12.2, that recognizes Dsg2. We show that Dsg2 but not another desmosomal cadherin, Dsc2, is cleaved by cysteine proteases during the onset of intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) apoptosis. Small interfering RNA-mediated down-regulation of Dsg2 protected epithelial cells from apoptosis. Moreover, we report that a C-terminal fragment of Dsg2 regulates apoptosis and Dsg2 protein levels. Our studies highlight a novel mechanism by which Dsg2 regulates IEC apoptosis driven by cysteine proteases during physiological differentiation and inflammation.
We used the RIP1-Tag2 (RT2) mouse model of islet cell carcinogenesis to profile the transcriptome of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNET) that were either non-invasive or highly invasive, seeking to identify pro- and anti-invasive molecules. Expression of multiple components of desmosomes, structures that help maintain cellular adhesion, was significantly reduced in invasive carcinomas. Genetic deletion of one of these desmosomal components, desmoplakin, resulted in increased local tumor invasion without affecting tumor growth parameters in RT2 PNETs. Expression of cadherin 1, a component of the adherens junction adhesion complex, was maintained in these tumors despite the genetic deletion of desmoplakin. Our results demonstrate that loss of desmoplakin expression and resultant disruption of desmosomal adhesion can promote increased local tumor invasion independent of adherens junction status.
The ability of a tumor to invade into the surrounding normal tissue is one hallmark of a malignant cancer. We sought to identify factors that either restrict or promote tumor invasion in a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer by characterizing the transcriptional profiles of the non-invasive and invasive pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNET) that develop in this model. This analysis demonstrated that multiple genes encoding components of desmosomes, cellular structures dedicated to the maintenance of cell-cell adhesion, were expressed at much lower levels in invasive PNETs, suggesting that loss of desmosomal adhesion contributes to the development of an invasive phenotype in these tumors. Genetic deletion of one of these desmosomal components in PNET-bearing mice resulted in increased local tumor invasion. These results are important since the development of an invasive phenotype is associated with a poor prognosis for many human cancers and is often a precursor to the development of distant metastases. Our findings demonstrate one mechanism by which tumors can acquire such an invasive phenotype and may prove useful in evaluating the malignancy of human cancers.
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.
Desmoglein 3 (Dsg3), a desmosomal adhesion protein, is expressed in basal and immediate suprabasal layers of skin and across the entire stratified squamous epithelium of oral mucosa. However, increasing evidence suggests that the role of Dsg3 may involve more than just cell-cell adhesion.
To determine possible additional roles of Dsg3 during epithelial cell adhesion we used overexpression of full-length human Dsg3 cDNA, and RNAi-mediated knockdown of this molecule in various epithelial cell types. Overexpression of Dsg3 resulted in a reduced level of E-cadherin but a colocalisation with the E-cadherin-catenin complex of the adherens junctions. Concomitantly these transfected cells exhibited marked migratory capacity and the formation of filopodial protrusions. These latter events are consistent with Src activation and, indeed, Src-specific inhibition reversed these phenotypes. Moreover Dsg3 knockdown, which also reversed the decreased level of E-cadherin, partially blocked Src phosphorylation.
Our data are consistent with the possibility that Dsg3, as an up-stream regulator of Src activity, helps regulate adherens junction formation.
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.