Cadherins and catenins: role in signal transduction and tumor progression

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1999;18(1):15-30. doi: 10.1023/a:1006200102166.


Cadherins are transmembrane cell-cell adhesion molecules which are connected to the cytoskeleton by association with the cytoplasmic proteins, alpha-, beta-, and, gamma-catenin (plakoglobin). Beta-catenin has an additional role in the wnt signal transduction pathway in which it transmitts signals to the cell nucleus in complexes with transcription factors of the LEF-1/TCF family. The cell adhesion function of the epithelial E-cadherin is frequently disturbed in carcinomas either by downregulation or by mutation of the E-cadherin/catenin genes. The signaling function of beta-catenin is activated in tumors by mutations of beta-catenin or of the tumor suppressor gene product APC. In this review I will give an introduction to the structure and function of the cadherin/catenin complex and summarize findings which support a decisive role of these components in the development of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / etiology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins