Desmosomes are strong structures involved in intercellular adhesion. They may be found at any point around the lateral cell membrane or beneath the zonula adherens of the junctional complex.
Electron microscopy reveals a disc-shaped structure on either side of opposing cytoplasmic membranes. The discs connect to the inside of their own cell by intermediate filaments. The discs connect to each other by dense fibrous material within the intercellular space. Hence, desmosomes connect the cytoplasm of two cells and convey stresses on one cell to its neighbours. Therefore, they are adapted to support cells which are exposed to physical stress. Consequently, they are found in abundance in sites such as the epidermal keratinocytes.
Last reviewed 01/2018