Membrane-impermeable cross-linking provides evidence for homophilic, isoform-specific binding of desmosomal cadherins in epithelial cells

Zhuxiang Nie, Anita Merritt, Mansour Rouhi-Parkouhi, Lydia Tabernero, David Garrod

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Desmosomes and adherens junctions are cadherin-based protein complexes responsible for cell-cell adhesion of epithelial cells. Type 1 cadherins of adherens junctions show specific homophilic adhesion that plays a major role in developmental tissue segregation. The desmosomal cadherins, desmocollin and desmoglein, occur as several different isoforms with overlapping expression in some tissues where different isoforms are located in the same desmosomes. Although adhesive binding of desmosomal cadherins has been investigated in a variety of ways, their interaction in desmosome-forming epithelial cells has not been studied. Here, using extracellular homobifunctional cross-linking, we provide evidence for homophilic and isoform-specific binding between the Dsc2, Dsc3, Dsg2, and Dsg3 isoforms in HaCaT keratinocytes and show that it represents trans interaction. Furthermore, the cross-linked adducts are present in the detergent-insoluble fraction, and electron microscopy shows that extracellular cross-linking probably occurs in desmosomes. We found no evidence for either heterophilic or cis interaction, but neither can be completely excluded by our data. Mutation of amino acid residues Trp-2 and Ala-80 that are important for trans interaction in classical cadherin adhesive binding abolished Dsc2 binding, indicating that these residues are also involved in desmosomal adhesion. These interactions of desmosomal cadherins may be of key importance for their ordered arrangement within desmosomes that we believe is essential for desmosomal adhesive strength and the maintenance of tissue integrity. © 2011 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2143-2154
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2011


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