Desmosomes help myoepithelial cells (red) sort to the outside of luminal cells (blue).


Long known for providing strong adhesion, and thus maintenance of tissue architecture, desmosomes are turning up as important regulators of epithelial morphogenesis and cell positioning. Evidence from David Garrod's laboratory (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK) suggests that desmosomal adhesion may be as important as E-cadherin–mediated adhesion indetermining epithelial morphogenesis, at least in the mammary gland, the model system used in these studies. Sarah Runswick, a coauthor of the report, anticipates that these findings may stimulate renewed interest in cross-talk between desmosomes and adherens junctions and how they regulate key cellular events.

Garrod's group showed that blocking the desmosomal cadherins, desmocollins (Dsc) and desmogleins (Dsg), disrupts normal cellular aggregation and cell positioning of mammary luminal and myoepithelial cells maintained in a rotary culture system.

The newly discovered importance of desmosomal adhesion molecules in morphoregulation and positioning of epithelial cells probably applies well beyond the realm of the mammary gland to a variety of other tissues. The authors speculate that disruption of desmosomal adhesion might contribute globally to tissue disorganization, such as occurs in cancer and other diseases. ▪


Runswick, S.K., et al.
Nat. Cell Biol