Abstract Desmoglein 1 (Dsg1) is a component of desmosomes present in the upper epidermis and can be targeted by autoimmune antibodies or bacterial toxins, resulting in skin blistering diseases. These defects in tissue integrity are believed to result from compromised desmosomal adhesion; yet, previous attempts to directly test the adhesive roles of desmosomal cadherins using normally non-adherent L cells have yielded mixed results. Here, two complementary approaches were used to better resolve the molecular determinants for Dsg1-mediated adhesion: (1) a tetracycline-inducible system was used to modulate the levels of Dsg1 expressed in L cell lines containing desmocollin 1 (Dsc1) and plakoglobin (PG) and (2) a retroviral gene delivery system was used to introduce Dsg1 into normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHEK). By increasing Dsg1 expression relative to Dsc1 and PG, we were able to demonstrate that the ratio of Dsg1:Dsc1 is a critical determinant of desmosomal adhesion in fibroblasts. The distribution of Dsg1 was organized at areas of cell–cell contact in the multicellular aggregates that formed in these suspension cultures. Similarly, the introduction of Dsg1 into NHEKs was capable of increasing the aggregation of single cell suspensions and further enhanced the adhesive strength of intact epithelial sheets. Endogenous Dsc1 levels were also increased in NHEKs containing Dsg1, providing further support for the coordination of these two desmosomal cadherins in regulating adhesive structures. These Dsg1-mediated effects on intercellular adhesion were directly related to the presence of an intact extracellular domain as ETA, a toxin that specifically cleaves this desmosomal cadherin, inhibited adhesion in both fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Collectively, these observations demonstrate that Dsg1 promotes the formation of intercellular adhesion complexes and suggest that the relative level of Dsg and Dsc expressed at the cell surface regulates this adhesive process.