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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Mar;1778(3):572-87. Epub 2007 Aug 9.

Desmosome structure, composition and function.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Michael Smith Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Desmosomes are intercellular junctions of epithelia and cardiac muscle. They resist mechanical stress because they adopt a strongly adhesive state in which they are said to be hyper-adhesive and which distinguishes them from other intercellular junctions; desmosomes are specialised for strong adhesion and their failure can result in diseases of the skin and heart. They are also dynamic structures whose adhesiveness can switch between high and low affinity adhesive states during processes such as embryonic development and wound healing, the switching being signalled by protein kinase C. Desmosomes may also act as signalling centres, regulating the availability of signalling molecules and thereby participating in fundamental processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis. Here we consider the structure, composition and function of desmosomes, and their role in embryonic development and disease.

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