The function of desmin has been deduced through studies in knockout mice, but the underlying mechanism of its action is not known. These possibilities may be the result of interactions with other proteins and not desmin itself. More research needs to be done on desmin's expression and interactions in the muscle cell in order to determine its exact function.
Desmin is one of the earliest protein markers for muscle tissue in embryogenesis as it is detected in the somites of myoblasts. Although it is present early in the development of muscle cells it is expressed at low levels and increases as the cell nears terminal differentiation the muscle cell matures only desmin is present. A similar protein, vimentin, is present in higher amounts during embryogenesis while desmin is present in higher amounts after differentiation. This suggests that there may be some interaction between the two in determining muscle cell differentiation. However desmin knockout mice develop normally and only experience defects later in life. Since desmin is expressed at a low level during differentiation another protein may be able to compensate for desmin's function early in development but not later on.