Desmosomes are intercellular adhesive junctions that impart strength to vertebrate tissues. Their dense, ordered intercellular attachments are formed by desmogleins (Dsgs) and desmocollins (Dscs), but the nature of trans-cellular interactions between these specialized cadherins is unclear. Here, using solution biophysics and coated-bead aggregation experiments, we demonstrate family-wise heterophilic specificity: All Dsgs form adhesive dimers with all Dscs, with affinities characteristic of each Dsg:Dsc pair. Crystal structures of ectodomains from Dsg2 and Dsg3 and from Dsc1 and Dsc2 show binding through a strand-swap mechanism similar to that of homophilic classical cadherins. However, conserved charged amino acids inhibit Dsg:Dsg and Dsc:Dsc interactions by same-charge repulsion and promote heterophilic Dsg:Dsc interactions through oppositecharge attraction. These findings show that Dsg:Dsc heterodimers represent the fundamental adhesive unit of desmosomes and provide a structural framework for understanding desmosome assembly.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jun 28 2016|
- Cell adhesion
- Heterophilic binding
ASJC Scopus subject areas