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.
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
Squamous epithelial cells have both adherens junctions and desmosomes. The ability of these cells to organize the desmosomal proteins into a functional structure depends upon their ability first to organize an adherens junction. Since the adherens junction and the desmosome are separate structures with different molecular make up, it is not immediately obvious why formation of an adherens junction is a prerequisite for the formation of a desmosome. The adherens junction is composed of a transmembrane classical cadherin (E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin in squamous epithelial cells) linked to either β-catenin or plakoglobin, which is linked to α-catenin, which is linked to the actin cytoskeleton. The desmosome is composed of transmembrane proteins of the broad cadherin family (desmogleins and desmocollins) that are linked to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton, presumably through plakoglobin and desmoplakin. To begin to study the role of adherens junctions in the assembly of desmosomes, we produced an epithelial cell line that does not express classical cadherins and hence is unable to organize desmosomes, even though it retains the requisite desmosomal components. Transfection of E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin into this cell line did not restore the ability to organize desmosomes; however, overexpression of plakoglobin, along with E-cadherin, did permit desmosome organization. These data suggest that plakoglobin, which is the only known common component to both adherens junctions and desmosomes, must be linked to E-cadherin in the adherens junction before the cell can begin to assemble desmosomal components at regions of cell–cell contact. Although adherens junctions can form in the absence of plakoglobin, making use only of β-catenin, such junctions cannot support the formation of desmosomes. Thus, we speculate that plakoglobin plays a signaling role in desmosome organization.
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 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
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.
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.
Desmocollin 1 (Dsc1) is part of a desmosomal cell adhesion receptor formed in terminally differentiating keratinocytes of stratified epithelia. The dsc1 gene encodes two proteins (Dsc1a and Dsc1b) that differ only with respect to their COOH-terminal cytoplasmic amino acid sequences. On the basis of in vitro experiments, it is thought that the Dsc1a variant is essential for assembly of the desmosomal plaque, a structure that connects desmosomes to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton of epithelial cells. We have generated mice that synthesize a truncated Dsc1 receptor that lacks both the Dsc1a- and Dsc1b-specific COOH-terminal domains. This mutant transmembrane receptor, which does not bind the common desmosomal plaque proteins plakoglobin and plakophilin 1, is integrated into functional desmosomes. Interestingly, our mutant mice did not show the epidermal fragility previously observed in dsc1-null mice. This suggests that neither the Dsc1a- nor the Dsc1b-specific COOH-terminal cytoplasmic domain is required for establishing and maintaining desmosomal adhesion. However, a comparison of our mutants with dsc1-null mice suggests that the Dsc1 extracellular domain is necessary to maintain structural integrity of the skin.
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.
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.
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.
Plakophilin 1, a member of the armadillo multigene family, is a protein with dual localization in the nucleus and in desmosomes. To elucidate its role in desmosome assembly and regulation, we have analyzed its localization and binding partners in vivo. When overexpressed in HaCaT keratinocytes, plakophilin 1 localized to the nucleus and to desmosomes, and dramatically enhanced the recruitment of desmosomal proteins to the plasma membrane. This effect was mediated by plakophilin 1's head domain, which interacted with desmoglein 1, desmoplakin, and keratins in the yeast two-hybrid system. Overexpression of the armadillo repeat domain induced a striking dominant negative phenotype with the formation of filopodia and long cellular protrusions, where plakophilin 1 colocalized with actin filaments. This phenotype was strictly dependent on a conserved motif in the center of the armadillo repeat domain. Our results demonstrate that plakophilin 1 contains two functionally distinct domains: the head domain, which could play a role in organizing the desmosomal plaque in suprabasal cells, and the armadillo repeat domain, which might be involved in regulating the dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton.
keratinocytes; desmoglein; armadillo; cell adhesion; cell motility
Desmosomes are a complex assembly of protein molecules that mediate adhesion between adjacent cells. Desmosome composition is well established and spatial relationships between components have been identified. Intercellular cell-cell adhesion is created by the interaction of extracellular domains of desmosomal cadherins, namely, desmocollins and desmogleins. High-resolution methods have provided insight into the structural interactions between cadherins. However, there is a lack of understanding about the architecture of the intact desmosomes and the physical principles behind their adhesive strength are unclear. Electron Tomography (ET) studies have offered three-dimensional visual data of desmosomal cadherin associations at molecular resolution. This review discusses the merits of two cadherin association models represented using ET. We discuss the possible role of sample preparation on the structural differences seen between models and the possibility of adaptive changes in the structure as a direct consequence of mechanical stress and stratification.
Desmoplakin recruits the centrosomal protein Lis1 to the epidermal cell cortex, where it regulates cortical microtubule organization and desmosome stability.
Desmosomes are cell–cell adhesion structures that integrate cytoskeletal networks. In addition to binding intermediate filaments, the desmosomal protein desmoplakin (DP) regulates microtubule reorganization in the epidermis. In this paper, we identify a specific subset of centrosomal proteins that are recruited to the cell cortex by DP upon epidermal differentiation. These include Lis1 and Ndel1, which are centrosomal proteins that regulate microtubule organization and anchoring in other cell types. This recruitment was mediated by a region of DP specific to a single isoform, DPI. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the epidermal-specific loss of Lis1 results in dramatic defects in microtubule reorganization. Lis1 ablation also causes desmosomal defects, characterized by decreased levels of desmosomal components, decreased attachment of keratin filaments, and increased turnover of desmosomal proteins at the cell cortex. This contributes to loss of epidermal barrier activity, resulting in completely penetrant perinatal lethality. This work reveals essential desmosome-associated components that control cortical microtubule organization and unexpected roles for centrosomal proteins in epidermal function.
Desmosomes are cell–cell adhesion structures whose canonical functions are control of intermediate filament organization and tissue strength. In the intestinal epithelium, desmosomes do not mediate these functions but instead control the brush border architecture of the enterocytes.
Maintaining proper cell–cell adhesion in the intestine is essential for tissue homeostasis and barrier function. This adhesion is thought to be mediated by cell adhesion structures, including tight junctions, adherens junctions, and desmosomes, which concentrate in the apical junctional region. While clear roles for adherens and tight junctions have been established in simple epithelia, the function of desmosomes has not been addressed. In stratified epithelia, desmosomes impart mechanical strength to tissues by organizing and anchoring the keratin filament network. In this paper, we report that the desmosomal protein desmoplakin (DP) is not essential for cell adhesion in the intestinal epithelium. Surprisingly, when DP is lacking, keratin filament localization is also unperturbed, although keratin filaments no longer anchor at desmosomes. Unexpectedly, DP is important for proper microvillus structure. Our study highlights the tissue-specific functions of desmosomes and reveals that the canonical functions for these structures are not conserved in simple epithelium.
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.
Plakophilins (PKPs) are armadillo family members related to the classical cadherin-associated protein p120ctn. PKPs localize to the cytoplasmic plaque of intercellular junctions and participate in linking the intermediate filament (IF)-binding protein desmoplakin (DP) to desmosomal cadherins. In response to cell–cell contact, PKP2 associates with DP in plaque precursors that form in the cytoplasm and translocate to nascent desmosomes. Here, we provide evidence that PKP2 governs DP assembly dynamics by scaffolding a DP–PKP2–protein kinase Cα (PKCα) complex, which is disrupted by PKP2 knockdown. The behavior of a phosphorylation-deficient DP mutant that associates more tightly with IF is mimicked by PKP2 and PKCα knockdown and PKC pharmacological inhibition, all of which impair junction assembly. PKP2 knockdown is accompanied by increased phosphorylation of PKC substrates, raising the possibility that global alterations in PKC signaling may contribute to pathogenesis of congenital defects caused by PKP2 deficiency.
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.
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.
Re-modeling of epithelial tissues requires that the cells in the tissue rearrange their adhesive contacts in order to allow cells to migrate relative to neighboring cells. Desmosomes are prominent adhesive structures found in a variety of epithelial tissues that are believed to inhibit cell migration and invasion. Mechanisms regulating desmosome assembly and stability in migrating cells are largely unknown. In this study we established a cell culture model to examine the fate of desmosomal components during scratch wound migration. Desmosomes are rapidly assembled between epithelial cells at the lateral edges of migrating cells and structures are transported in a retrograde fashion while the structures become larger and mature. Desmosome assembly and dynamics in this system are dependent on the actin cytoskeleton prior to being associated with the keratin intermediate filament cytoskeleton. These studies extend our understanding of desmosome assembly and provide a system to examine desmosome assembly and dynamics during epithelial cell migration.
desmosome; desmocollin; plakophilin-3; actin; live cell microscopy; motility
Desmosomes first assemble in the E3.5 mouse trophectoderm, concomitant with establishment of epithelial polarity and appearance of a blastocoel cavity. Throughout development, they increase in size and number and are especially abundant in epidermis and heart muscle. Desmosomes mediate cell–cell adhesion through desmosomal cadherins, which differ from classical cadherins in their attachments to intermediate filaments (IFs), rather than actin filaments. Of the proteins implicated in making this IF connection, only desmoplakin (DP) is both exclusive to and ubiquitous among desmosomes. To explore its function and importance to tissue integrity, we ablated the desmoplakin gene. Homozygous −/− mutant embryos proceeded through implantation, but did not survive beyond E6.5. Mutant embryos proceeded through implantation, but did not survive beyond E6.5. Surprisingly, analysis of these embryos revealed a critical role for desmoplakin not only in anchoring IFs to desmosomes, but also in desmosome assembly and/or stabilization. This finding not only unveiled a new function for desmoplakin, but also provided the first opportunity to explore desmosome function during embryogenesis. While a blastocoel cavity formed and epithelial cell polarity was at least partially established in the DP (−/−) embryos, the paucity of desmosomal cell–cell junctions severely affected the modeling of tissue architecture and shaping of the early embryo.
desmoplakin; desmosomes; cadherins; embryonic lethal; knockout
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
By tethering intermediate filaments (IFs) to sites of intercellular adhesion, desmosomes facilitate formation of a supercellular scaffold that imparts mechanical strength to a tissue. However, the role IF–membrane attachments play in strengthening adhesion has not been directly examined. To address this question, we generated Tet-On A431 cells inducibly expressing a desmoplakin (DP) mutant lacking the rod and IF-binding domains (DPNTP). DPNTP localized to the plasma membrane and led to dissociation of IFs from the junctional plaque, without altering total or cell surface distribution of adherens junction or desmosomal proteins. However, a specific decrease in the detergent-insoluble pool of desmoglein suggested a reduced association with the IF cytoskeleton. DPNTP-expressing cell aggregates in suspension or substrate-released cell sheets readily dissociated when subjected to mechanical stress whereas controls remained largely intact. Dissociation occurred without lactate dehydrogenase release, suggesting that loss of tissue integrity was due to reduced adhesion rather than increased cytolysis. JD-1 cells from a patient with a DP COOH-terminal truncation were also more weakly adherent compared with normal keratinocytes. When used in combination with DPNTP, latrunculin A, which disassembles actin filaments and disrupts adherens junctions, led to dissociation up to an order of magnitude greater than either treatment alone. These data provide direct in vitro evidence that IF–membrane attachments regulate adhesive strength and suggest furthermore that actin- and IF-based junctions act synergistically to strengthen adhesion.
desmosome; desmoplakin; intermediate filaments; cadherins; adherens junction
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
Desmosomes are cell adhesion structures (junctions) that are particularly abundant in cells derived from the ectodermal lineages. These junctions are required to maintain the integrity of organs subjected to mechanical stress, in particular the skin and the heart. This conclusion is partially based on tissue fragility phenotypes observed in mice with null mutations in certain desmosomal genes. Furthermore, patients have been identified that develop severe skin disorders, and even fatal heart diseases, due to impaired desmosome function. Nevertheless, desmosomes are more than cellular glue. New evidence suggests that these junctions can transmit signals from the extracellular environment to the nucleus, for example by controling the cytoplasmic pool of transcriptional co-factors that belong to the armadillo family of desmosomal proteins (i.e. plakoglobin, plakophilins). Understanding the signaling properties of desmosomes will provide new insights into developmental processes such as skin and skin appendage development. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that abnormal signaling through these junctions contributes to the symptoms of certain skin and heart diseases.
desmosome; desmoglein; desmocollin; plakoglobin; plakophilin; MAPK; pemphigus; skin appendages