Desmosomes: Intercellular Adhesive Junctions Specialized for Attachment of Intermediate Filaments

Andrew P. Kowalczyk, Elayne A. Bornslaeger, Suzanne M. Norvell, Helena L. Palka, Kathleen J. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Cell-cell adhesion is thought to play important roles in development, in tissue morphogenesis, and in the regulation of cell migration and proliferation. Desmosomes are adhesive intercellular junctions that anchor the intermediate filament network to the plasma membrane. By functioning both as an adhesive complex and as a cell-surface attachment site for intermediate filaments, desmosomes integrate the intermediate filament cytoskelelon between cells and play an important role in maintaining tissue integrity. Recent observations indicate that tissue integrity is severely compromised in autoimmune and genetic diseases in which the function of desmosomal molecules is impaired. In addition, the structure and function of many of the desmosomal molecules have been determined, and a number of the molecular interactions between desmosomal proteins have now been elucidated. Finally, the molecular constituents of desmosomes and other adhesive complexes are now known to function not only in cell adhesion, but also in the transduction of intracellular signals that regulate cell behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-302
Number of pages66
JournalInternational Review of Cytology
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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