Antisense expression of a desmocollin gene in MDCK cells alters desmosome plaque assembly but does not affect desmoglein expression

Gareth Roberts, Ian D. J. Burdett, Sara C. Pidsley, Ian A. King, Anthony I. Magee, Roger S. Buxton

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The desmocollins are one of two types of putative adhesive proteins present in the desmosome type of cell junctions, the other type being the desmogleins; both are members of the cadherin superfamily. Each type of desmosomal cadherin occurs as a number of isoforms which have differing tissue distribution; within stratifying epithelia some isoforms occur only suprabasally. We have sought to analyse desmocollin function by reducing the amount of protein using antisense gene expression in the widely studied Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cell line. Although this is a simple epithelial cell line, we show by Northern blot analysis that it expresses multiple isoforms of the desmosomal cadherins. Desmocollins DSC2 and DSC3 and desmogleins DSG2 and DSG3 (the pemphigus vulgaris antigen PVA) were detected, but DSC1 and DSG1, which are present exclusively in the suprabasal layers of the epidermis, were absent. The major desmocollin isoform was the type 2 (DSC2). A DSC2 clone isolated from a MDCK cDNA library had the same cell adhesion recognition sequence (Phe-Ala-Thr) as human, bovine and mouse type 2 isoforms. This sequence appears diagnostic for the three desmocollin isoforms. This cDNA clone was used to isolate a genomic DSC2 clone; antisense expression of this clone in MDCK cells resulted in a drastic reduction of desmocollin protein as judged by Western blots; Dsc3 was not upregulated to compensate for the loss of Dsc2. This antisense expression significantly altered desmosome assembly. There was a loss of punctate staining evident when using a desmosome plaque protein (desmoplakin) antibody. Electron microscopy revealed that there was a reduction in the number of desmosomes and a notable increase in the asymmetry of plaques between adjacent cells. Immunolabelling showed that similar levels of desmogleins and E-cadherin were present. Immunoelectron microscopy also showed that many vesicular structures were labelled, at intervals along the lateral membranes between cells. The distinctive loose organization of the remaining desmosomes may originate in modifications to the targeting and incorporation of proteins into fully assembled plaques. Other junctions were unaffected and the cells maintained their integrity as a confluent monolayer.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean journal of cell biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1998


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