Desmosomes for CSIR NET LIFE Science
Desmosome structure and morphology
Desmosomes are specialized and highly ordered membrane domains that mediate cell–cell contact and strong adhesion. Adhesive interactions at the desmosome are coupled to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton.
By mediating both cell–cell adhesion & cytoskeletal linkages, desmosomes mechanically integrate cells within tissues and thereby function to resist mechanical stress. This essential structural and mechanical function is highlighted by the prominent distribution of desmosomes in tissues that are routinely subjected to physical forces, such as the heart and skin, and the wide range of desmosomal diseases that result from disruption of desmosome function. At the ultrastructure level, desmosomes appear as electron-dense discs approximately 0.2–0.5 μm in diameter, which assemble into a mirror image arrangement at cell–cell interfaces. Large bundles of intermediate filaments extend from the nuclear surface and cell interior out toward the plasma membrane, where they attach to desmosomes by interweaving with the cytoplasmic plaque of the adhesive complex. The overall adhesive function of the desmosome is dependent upon the tethering of intermediate filaments to the desmosomal plaque, highlighting the integrated functions of adhesion and cytoskeletal elements. Thus, desmosomes are modular structures comprising adhesion molecules that bolt cells together, cytoskeletal cables that disperse forces, and linking molecules at the cytoplasmic plaque of the desmosome that carry mechanical load from the adhesion molecules to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton.
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