Intercellular adhesive junctions are essential for maintaining the physical integrity of tissues; this is particularly true for the heart that is under constant mechanical load. The correct functionality of the heart is dependent on the electrical and mechanical coordination of its constituent cardiomyocytes. The intercalated disc (ID) structure located at the termini of the rod-shaped adult cardiomyocyte contains various junctional proteins responsible for the integration of structural information and cell-cell communication. According to the classical description, the ID consists of three distinct junctional complexes: adherens junction (AJ), desmosome (Des), and gap junction (GJ) that work together to mediate mechanical and electrical coupling of cardiomyocytes. However, recent morphological and molecular studies indicate that AJ and Des components are capable of mixing together resulting in a "hybrid adhering junction" or "area composita." This review summarizes recent progress in understanding the in vivo function(s) of AJ components in cardiac homeostasis and disease.
Keywords: N-cadherin; adherens junction; arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy; catenin; desmosome.