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Schlegel, Nicolas; Boerner, Kevin; Waschke, Jens (2020): Targeting desmosomal adhesion and signalling for intestinal barrier stabilization in inflammatory bowel diseases-Lessons from experimental models and patients. In: Acta Physiologica, Vol. 231, No. 1, e13492
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Abstract

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's disease (CD) and Ulcerative colitis (UC) have a complex and multifactorial pathogenesis which is incompletely understood. A typical feature closely associated with clinical symptoms is impaired intestinal epithelial barrier function. Mounting evidence suggests that desmosomes, which together with tight junctions (TJ) and adherens junctions (AJ) form the intestinal epithelial barrier, play a distinct role in IBD pathogenesis. This is based on the finding that desmoglein (Dsg) 2, a cadherin-type adhesion molecule of desmosomes, is required for maintenance of intestinal barrier properties both in vitro and in vivo, presumably via Dsg2-mediated regulation of TJ. Mice deficient for intestinal Dsg2 show increased basal permeability and are highly susceptible to experimental colitis. In several cohorts of IBD patients, intestinal protein levels of Dsg2 are reduced and desmosome ultrastructure is altered suggesting that Dsg2 is involved in IBD pathogenesis. In addition to its adhesive function, Dsg2 contributes to enterocyte cohesion and intestinal barrier function. Dsg2 is also involved in enterocyte proliferation, barrier differentiation and induction of apoptosis, in part by regulation of p38MAPK and EGFR signalling. In IBD, the function of Dsg2 appears to be compromised via p38MAPK activation, which is a critical pathway for regulation of desmosomes and is associated with keratin phosphorylation in IBD patients. In this review, the current findings on the role of Dsg2 as a novel promising target to prevent loss of intestinal barrier function in IBD patients are discussed.