Activation of the protein kinase Akt/PKB by the formation of E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell junctions. Evidence for the association of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase with the E-cadherin adhesion complex

J Biol Chem. 1999 Jul 2;274(27):19347-51. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.27.19347.


E-cadherins are surface adhesion molecules localized at the level of adherens junctions, which play a major role in cell adhesiveness by mediating calcium-dependent homophylic interactions at sites of cell-cell contacts. Recently, E-cadherins have been also implicated in a number of biological processes, including cell growth and differentiation, cell recognition, and sorting during developmental morphogenesis, as well as in aggregation-dependent cell survival. As phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase and Akt play a critical role in survival pathways in response to both growth factors and extracellular stimuli, these observations prompted us to explore whether E-cadherins could affect intracellular molecules regulating the activity of the PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling cascade. Using Madin-Darby canine kidney cells as a model system, we show here that engagement of E-cadherins in homophylic calcium-dependent cell-cell interactions results in a rapid PI 3-kinase-dependent activation of Akt and the subsequent translocation of Akt to the nucleus. Moreover, we demonstrate that the activation of PI 3-kinase in response to cell-cell contact formation involves the phosphorylation of PI 3-kinase in tyrosine residues, and the concomitant recruitment of PI 3-kinase to E-cadherin-containing protein complexes. These findings indicate that E-cadherins can initiate outside-in signal transducing pathways that regulate the activity of PI 3-kinase and Akt, thus providing a novel molecular mechanism whereby the interaction among neighboring cells and their adhesion status may ultimately control the fate of epithelial cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dogs
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Intercellular Junctions / enzymology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Rabbits


  • Cadherins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt