Send to

Choose Destination
Cell Tissue Res. 2011 Oct;346(1):65-77. doi: 10.1007/s00441-011-1260-0. Epub 2011 Oct 19.

Intercellular adhering junctions with an asymmetric molecular composition: desmosomes connecting Merkel cells and keratinocytes.

Author information

Helmholtz Group for Cell Biology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.


Merkel cells (MCs) are special neuroendocrine epithelial cells that occur as individual cells or as cell groups within the confinements of a major epithelium formed and dominated by other epithelial cells. In the epidermis and some of its appendages MCs are mostly located in the basal cell layer, occasionally also in suprabasal layers and generally occur in linear arrays in outer root sheath cell layers of hair follicles. As MCs are connected to the adjacent keratinocytes by a series of adhering junctions (AJs), of which the desmosomes are the most prominent, these junctions represent heterotypic cell-cell connections, i.e. a kind of structure not yet elucidated in molecular terms. Therefore, we have studied these AJs in order to examine the molecular composition of the desmosomal halves. Using light- and electron-microscopic immunolocalization and keratin 20 as the MC-specific cell type marker we show that the plaques of the MC half of the desmosomes specifically and constitutively contain plakophilin Pkp2. This protein, however, is absent in the keratinocyte half of such heterotypic desmosomes which instead contains Pkp1 and/or Pkp3. We discuss the developmental, tissue-architectonic and functional importance of such asymmetric junctions in normal physiology as well as in diseases, in particular in the formation of distant tumor cell metastasis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center