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Keywords:

  • desmoglein 4;
  • desmosome;
  • hair shaft;
  • granular layer;
  • differentiation;
  • keratinocytes;
  • trichocytes

Abstract Desmosomes are critical for the tissue integrity of stratified epithelia and their appendages. Desmogleins (DSGs) and desmocollins (DSCs) are transmembrane desmosomal cadherins that interact extracellularly to link neighboring epithelial cells. We recently identified a new member of the DSG family, designated desmoglein 4, whose mutations cause hypotrichosis in human, mouse and rat. In this study, we analyzed in detail the expression domains of human desmoglein 4 protein (DSG4) in human skin relative to differentiation markers and other DSGs. Our results show that DSG4 protein is expressed in the more highly differentiated layers of the epidermis. This expression pattern in vivo is recapitulated in highly differentiated HaCaT human keratinocytes and normal human keratinocytes in vitro. In the human hair follicle, DSG4 is expressed specifically in the hair shaft cortex, the lower hair cuticle, and the upper inner root sheath (IRS) cuticle. Using a green fluorescent protein-tagged version of mouse or rat desmoglein 4 protein (Dsg4) and immuno-electron microscopy, we demonstrate that Dsg4 localizes to desmosomes both in vitro and in vivo. The highly specific expression pattern of DSG4 in the human hair follicle, combined with the phenotype of rodent models and human patients with desmoglein 4 mutations, underscores the importance of this adhesion molecule in the integrity of the hair shaft.