If a tight junction is like a zipper, a desmosome27 (DEZ-mo-some) is more like the snap on a pair of jeans, a patch that holds cells together and enables a tissue to resist mechanical stress, but does not totally encircle a cell. Desmosomes are common in the epidermis, cardiac muscle, and cervix of the uterus. The neighboring cells are separated by a small gap, which is spanned by a fine mesh of glycoprotein filaments. These filaments terminate in a thickened protein plaque at the surface of each cell. On the cytoplasmic side of each plaque, intermediate filaments from the cytoskeleton approach and penetrate the plaque, turn like a J, and return a short distance back into the cytoplasm. Each cell contributes half of the complete desmosome. The basal cells of epithelial tissue have hemidesmosomes—half-desmosomes that anchor them to the underlying basement membrane.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.