Broken hearts, woolly hair, and tattered skin: when desmosomal adhesion goes awry

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2007 Oct;19(5):515-20. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2007 Oct 24.


Desmosomal cadherins constitute the adhesive core of desmosomes. Different desmosomal cadherins are differentially expressed in a tissue-specific as well as differentiation-dependent manner. The skin and the heart are two examples of tissues whose vital functions require the ability to endure mechanical stress, and therefore, rely on the integrity of desmosomal adhesion. When this adhesion is compromised via mutations in genes encoding desmosomal cadherins or associated plaque proteins, both tissues can suffer the consequences. Open questions revolve around whether the resulting phenotypes are solely because of physical disruption of cell adhesion or whether these events are coupled with signaling mechanisms that influence many additional cellular processes. In this review, we focus on new developments in desmosomal adhesion with an emphasis on the skin, hair, and heart.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Desmosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Myocardium / cytology
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Cadherins