Adherens Junctions and Desmosomes Coordinate Mechanics and Signaling to Orchestrate Tissue Morphogenesis and Function: An Evolutionary Perspective

Rübsam M, Broussard JA, Wickström SA, Nekrasova O, Green KJ, Niessen CM

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2017 Sep;

PMID: 28893859

Abstract

Cadherin-based adherens junctions (AJs) and desmosomes are crucial to couple intercellular adhesion to the actin or intermediate filament cytoskeletons, respectively. As such, these intercellular junctions are essential to provide not only integrity to epithelia and other tissues but also the mechanical machinery necessary to execute complex morphogenetic and homeostatic intercellular rearrangements. Moreover, these spatially defined junctions serve as signaling hubs that integrate mechanical and chemical pathways to coordinate tissue architecture with behavior. This review takes an evolutionary perspective on how the emergence of these two essential intercellular junctions at key points during the evolution of multicellular animals afforded metazoans with new opportunities to integrate adhesion, cytoskeletal dynamics, and signaling. We discuss known literature on cross-talk between the two junctions and, using the skin epidermis as an example, provide a model for how these two junctions function in concert to orchestrate tissue organization and function.

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