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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jul 23;93(15):7701-5.

Distinct desmocollin isoforms occur in the same desmosomes and show reciprocally graded distributions in bovine nasal epidermis.

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  • 1Epithelial Morphogenesis Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.


The adhesive core of the desmosome is composed of cadherin-like glycoproteins of two families, desmocollins and desmogleins. Three isoforms of each are expressed in a tissue-specific and developmentally regulated pattern. In bovine nasal epidermis, the three desmocollin (Dsc) isoforms are expressed in overlapping domains; Dsc3 expression is strongest in the basal layer, while Dsc2 and Dsc1 are strongly expressed in the suprabasal layers. Herein we have investigated whether different isoforms are assembled into the same or distinct desmosomes by performing double immunogold labeling using isoform-specific antibodies directed against Dsc1 and Dsc3. The results show that individual desmosomes harbor both isoforms in regions where their expression territories overlap. Quantification showed that the ratio of the proteins in each desmosome altered gradually from basal to immediately suprabasal and upper suprabasal layers, labeling for Dsc1 increasing and Dsc3 decreasing. Thus desmosomes are constantly modified as cells move up the epidermis, with continuing turnover of the desmosomal glycoproteins. Statistical analysis of the quantitative data showed a possible relationship between the distributions of the two isoforms. This gradual change in desmosomal composition may constitute a vertical adhesive gradient within the epidermis, having important consequences for cell positioning and differentiation.

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