Difference Wiki

Desmosomes vs. Hemidesmosomes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on March 8, 2024
Desmosomes link cells together, hemidesmosomes anchor cells to the basement membrane.

Key Differences

Desmosomes are specialized cell structures that play a crucial role in adhesion, mechanically linking adjacent cells within tissues. These structures are particularly important in tissues subjected to significant stress, such as the skin, heart, and certain mucosal linings, where they help maintain tissue integrity by distributing tension through a cellular network. Hemidesmosomes, on the other hand, are similar in their anchoring function but differ significantly as they connect the basal aspect of epithelial cells to the underlying basement membrane, rather than linking adjacent cells. This connection is crucial for tissue stability, especially in the skin and epithelial linings, where it prevents shearing forces from detaching the epithelium from its substrate.
Desmosomes are responsible for cell-to-cell adhesion, providing mechanical strength to tissues by distributing tension across a cellular network, hemidesmosomes specialize in cell-to-matrix connections. This distinction is crucial for understanding tissue architecture and integrity, as both types of structures work in concert to maintain the physical cohesion of tissues under mechanical stress. The desmosomal connections are akin to the rivets between metal plates, whereas hemidesmosomes act as anchors securing the plates to a solid foundation.
Both desmosomes and hemidesmosomes are essential for the structural integrity and function of many tissues. Desmosomes ensure that cells within tissues remain connected and can communicate effectively, playing a vital role in tissue repair and the maintenance of physical integrity. Hemidesmosomes, by anchoring cells to the basement membrane, ensure that epithelial tissues remain attached to their underlying structures, essential for tissue stability and the prevention of blistering in the skin.
Desmosomes and hemidesmosomes serve complementary roles in maintaining tissue integrity. Desmosomes provide intercellular cohesion, supporting tissue structure and facilitating intercellular communication. Hemidesmosomes ensure the stable attachment of epithelial cells to the basement membrane, protecting against mechanical stress and maintaining tissue stability. Understanding the distinct yet interrelated functions of these structures is key to appreciating the complex mechanics of tissue architecture and pathology.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Connects cells together
Anchors cells to the basement membrane

Molecular Components

Cadherins (desmoglein and desmocollin)

Connection Type

Cell-to-extracellular matrix

Structural Association

Links to intermediate filaments (keratin)
Links to intermediate filaments (keratin)

Found In

Skin, heart, mucosal linings
Basal layer of epithelial tissues

Desmosomes and Hemidesmosomes Definitions


Mechanical linkage points.
Desmosomes distribute tension across cellular networks in tissues.


Integrin-based connections.
Hemidesmosomes use integrins to connect to the extracellular matrix.


Cellular adhesion structures.
Desmosomes help skin cells stick together.


Cell-matrix adhesion structures.
Hemidesmosomes anchor basal cells to the basement membrane in skin.


Component of cell cytoskeleton.
Desmosomes are integral to the structural integrity of epithelial tissues.


Cell stability providers.
Hemidesmosomes prevent blistering by anchoring cells firmly.


Cadherin-based connections.
Desmosomes utilize cadherins to bind cells within the epidermis.


Basal attachment points.
In the gum tissue, hemidesmosomes secure epithelial cells to the underlying layer.


Intercellular junctions.
In the heart, desmosomes link muscle cells for coordinated contractions.


Structural components of epithelia.
Hemidesmosomes are essential for the stability of epithelial layers.


Plural of desmosome


Plural of hemidesmosome


How do hemidesmosomes function?

Hemidesmosomes function by using integrins to attach cells to the extracellular matrix, providing cell-to-matrix adhesion.

What are hemidesmosomes?

Hemidesmosomes are structures that anchor cells to the basement membrane, ensuring tissue stability.

Where are desmosomes found?

Desmosomes are found in tissues subjected to mechanical stress, such as skin, heart, and mucosal linings.

How do desmosomes work?

Desmosomes work by connecting cytoplasmic plaques of adjacent cells through cadherin proteins, facilitating cell-to-cell adhesion.

What are desmosomes?

Desmosomes are cellular structures that link cells together within tissues, providing mechanical strength.

Do hemidesmosomes contribute to tissue repair?

Yes, by anchoring cells to the basement membrane, hemidesmosomes contribute to tissue stability and repair.

Are desmosomes involved in cell signaling?

Yes, besides mechanical adhesion, desmosomes can participate in intracellular signaling pathways.

What proteins are involved in hemidesmosomes?

Hemidesmosomes involve integrin proteins for connecting to the extracellular matrix.

How do mutations in desmosomal proteins affect health?

Mutations can lead to diseases like arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and pemphigus vulgaris, affecting heart and skin integrity.

What happens if desmosomes fail?

Failure of desmosomes can result in tissue breakdown and diseases characterized by weakened cell adhesion.

What research is being done on hemidesmosomes?

Research on hemidesmosomes focuses on understanding their role in disease, tissue repair, and regeneration.

What proteins are involved in desmosomes?

Desmosomes involve cadherin proteins like desmoglein and desmocollin for adhesion.

Can hemidesmosomes be affected by autoimmune diseases?

Yes, autoimmune diseases can target hemidesmosomal proteins, leading to conditions like bullous pemphigoid.

Do hemidesmosomes interact with the cytoskeleton?

Yes, hemidesmosomes link to the intermediate filaments of the cytoskeleton, providing structural support.

Can desmosomes be targeted for therapy?

Yes, targeting desmosomal proteins and pathways is being explored for treating skin and heart diseases.

Where are hemidesmosomes located?

Hemidesmosomes are primarily located in the basal layer of epithelial tissues, anchoring them to the basement membrane.

Can desmosomes be found in all cell types?

No, desmosomes are specific to certain cell types, mainly in tissues that require mechanical strength.

What is the role of hemidesmosomes in disease?

Hemidesmosomes play a role in diseases where cell-matrix adhesion is compromised, affecting tissue integrity.

How are desmosomes studied?

Desmosomes are studied using molecular biology techniques, microscopy, and genetic analysis.

Are there therapeutic approaches involving hemidesmosomes?

Therapeutic approaches may target hemidesmosomes to enhance wound healing and treat blistering diseases.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons