The adhesion protein E-cadherin plays a central part in the process of epithelial morphogenesis. Expression of this protein is downregulated during the acquisition of metastatic potential at late stages of epithelial tumour progression. There is evidence for a transcriptional blockage of E-cadherin gene expression in this process. Here we show that the transcription factor Snail, which is expressed by fibroblasts and some E-cadherin-negative epithelial tumour cell lines, binds to three E-boxes present in the human E-cadherin promoter and represses transcription of E-cadherin. Inhibition of Snail function in epithelial cancer cell lines lacking E-cadherin protein restores the expression of the E-cadherin gene.