Gifu University School of Medicine,
Department of Dermatology,
Kizawa Memorial Hospital,
Desmosomes and corneodesmosomes are the most important adhering junctions to provide strength for the epidermal sheet structure made of living keratinocytes and enucleated corneocytes, respectively. These junctions are connected directly with transmembrane desmosomal cadherins, desmogleins (Dsgs) and desmocollins (Dscs), mainly Dsg1/Dsc1 and Dsg3/Dsc3 in desmosomes and Dsg1/Dsc1 with corneodesmosin in corneodesmosomes. Dsgs and Dscs are associated with several proteins at their inner cytoplasmic domains to anchor keratin intermediate filaments. Desmosomes are not static, but dynamic units that undergo regular remodeling to allow for keratinocyte outward-migration in the epidermis. Recently, two mutually-reversible desmosomal adhesion states have been recognized, i.e., “stable hyper-adhesion (Ca
2+-independent)” and “dynamic weak-adhesion (Ca
2+-dependent)”. A remarkable impairment of this remodeling is observed in pemphigus vulgaris (an autoimmune blistering disease), caused by anti-Dsg3 antibodies, generating a weak-adhesion desmosome state. Immediately after formation, corneodesmosomes normally commit to degradation, which is complicatedly regulated by proteolytic cleavage of their respective extracellular portion(s), via kallikrein-regulated peptidases and cathepsins. This proteolytic activity is in turn controlled by a variety of inhibitory agents, including protease inhibitors, cholesterol sulfate, and an acidic gradient. The impairment of protease control causes keratinization disorders. This review focuses on the dynamic regulation of desmosomes and corneodesmosomes in relation to keratinization disorders.