Desmosomes, isolated from cow nose epidermis by a method utilizing citrate buffer pH 2.6 and density gradient centrifugation, have been analyzed and found to contain approximately 76% protein, 17% carbohydrate, and 10% lipid. Nonpolar amino acids predominate in desmosomal protein, representing 456 residues per 1,000. The sialic acid content is 5 nM/mg of protein. The lipid fraction is composed of approximately 40% cholesterol and 60% phospholipids.
Desmosomes are completely solubilized by incubation with 2% sodium dodecyl sulphate and 1% ß-mercaptoethanol. Gel electrophoresis of the denatured desmosomal proteins reveals 24 bands, with mobilities corresponding to a molecular weight range of 15,000–230,000 daltons. Seven of these are considered to be major bands, together constituting 81% of the desmosomal protein. Bands 1 and 2, of molecular weights 230,000 and 210,000 daltons, together comprise 28% by weight of the desmosome. It is suggested that these protein chains are located in the desmosomal plaque. Bands 3 and 4 are PAS-positive, constitute 23% of the desmosomal protein, and have apparent molecular weights of 140,000 and 120,000 daltons, respectively. At least part of this material must originate from the carbohydrate-containing layer which is demonstrated, by histochemistry, to be present in the desmosomal interspace. The possible nature and origin of the remaining major bands, of molecular weights 90,000, 75,000, and 60,000 daltons, are discussed.