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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Apr;120(4):523-30.

Genetic evidence for a novel human desmosomal cadherin, desmoglein 4.

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  • 1Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science, Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, United Kingdom.


Desmosomes are essential adhesion structures in most epithelia that link the intermediate filament network of one cell to its neighbor, thereby forming a strong bond. The molecular components of desmosomes belong to the cadherin superfamily, the plakin family, and the armadillo repeat protein family. The desmosomal cadherins are calcium-dependent transmembrane adhesion molecules and comprise the desmogleins and desmocollins. To date, three human desmoglein isoforms have been characterized, namely desmogleins 1, 2, and 3 that are expressed in a tissue- and differentiation-specific manner. Here we have identified and characterized, at the genetic level, a novel human desmoglein cDNA sharing homology with desmogleins 1, 2, 3 and we name this desmoglein 4. The human desmoglein 4 cDNA (3.6 kb) contains an open reading frame of 3120 bp that encodes a precursor protein of 1040 amino acids. The predicted mature protein comprises 991 amino acids with a molecular weight of 107822 Da at pI 4.38. Human desmoglein 4 shares 41% identity with human desmoglein 1, 37% with human desmoglein 2, and 50% with human desmoglein 3. Analysis of the exon/intron organization of the human desmoglein 4 gene (DSG4) demonstrates that it is composed of 16 exons spanning approximately 37 kb of 18q12 and is situated between DSG1 and DSG3. We have demonstrated using RT-PCR on multiple tissue cDNA samples that desmoglein 4 has very specific tissue expression in salivary gland, testis, prostate, and skin.

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