Desmosomes are highly specialized anchoring junctions that link intermediate filaments to sites of intercellular adhesion, thus facilitating the formation of a supracellular scaffolding that distributes mechanical forces throughout a tissue. These junctions are thus particularly important for maintaining the integrity of tissues that endure physical stress, such as the epidermis and myocardium.
The importance of the classic mechanical functions of desmosomal constituents is underscored by pathologies reported in animal models and an everexpanding
list of human mutations that target both desmosomal cadherins and their associated cytoskeletal anchoring proteins. However, the notion that desmosomes are static structures that exist simply to glue cells together belies their susceptibility to remodeling in response to environmental cues and their important tissue specific
roles in cell behavior and signaling.
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