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J Biol Chem. 2006 Feb 10;281(6):3614-24. Epub 2005 Nov 14.

The differentiation-dependent desmosomal cadherin desmoglein 1 is a novel caspase-3 target that regulates apoptosis in keratinocytes.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Dermatology and Cell Death Regulation Laboratory, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Although a number of cell adhesion proteins have been identified as caspase substrates, the potential role of differentiation-specific desmosomal cadherins during apoptosis has not been examined. Here, we demonstrate that UV-induced caspase cleavage of the human desmoglein 1 cytoplasmic tail results in distinct 17- and 140- kDa products, whereas metalloproteinase-dependent shedding of the extracellular adhesion domain generates a 75-kDa product. In vitro studies identify caspase-3 as the preferred enzyme that cleaves desmoglein 1 within its unique repeating unit domain at aspartic acid 888, part of a consensus sequence not conserved among the other desmosomal cadherins. Apoptotic processing leads to decreased cell surface expression of desmoglein 1 and re-localization of its C terminus diffusely throughout the cytoplasm over a time course comparable with the processing of other desmosomal proteins and cytoplasmic keratins. Importantly, whereas classic cadherins have been reported to promote cell survival, short hairpin RNA-mediated suppression of desmoglein 1 in differentiated keratinocytes protected cells from UV-induced apoptosis. Collectively, our results identify desmoglein 1 as a novel caspase and metalloproteinase substrate whose cleavage likely contributes to the dismantling of desmosomes during keratinocyte apoptosis and also reveal desmoglein 1 as a previously unrecognized regulator of apoptosis in keratinocytes.

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