, Volume 338, Issue 1, pp 1-17,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Aug 2009

The junctions that don’t fit the scheme: special symmetrical cell-cell junctions of their own kind


Immunocytochemical, electron-, and immunoelectron-microscopical studies have revealed that, in addition to the four major “textbook categories” of cell-cell junctions (gap junctions, tight junctions, adherens junctions, and desmosomes), a broad range of other junctions exists, such as the tiny puncta adhaerentia minima, the taproot junctions (manubria adhaerentia), the plakophilin-2-containing adherens junctions of mesenchymal or mesenchymally derived cell types including malignantly transformed cells, the composite junctions (areae compositae) of the mature mammalian myocardium, the cortex adhaerens of the eye lens, the interdesmosomal “sandwich” or “stud” junctions in the subapical layers of stratified epithelia and the tumors derived therefrom, and the complexus adhaerentes of the endothelial and virgultar cells of the lymph node sinus. On the basis of their sizes and shapes, other morphological criteria, and their specific molecular ensembles, these junctions and the genes that encode them cannot be subsumed under one of the major categories mentioned above but represent special structures in their own right, appear to serve special functions, and can give rise to specific pathological disorders.

The authors thank the “Deutsche Krebshilfe” (grant 10-2049-Fr I and II to W.W.F.) and the German Ministry for Research and Technology (Program Regenerative Medicine, START-MSC, to W.W.F.) for financial support. Sebastian Pieperhoff is grateful to the Canadian Government (DFAIT) for a Postodoctoral Research Fellowship (PDRF; 03/2008-03/2009) and the German Science Foundation (DFG) for a Postodctoral Research Fellowship (from 04/2009).