Cadherins, calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules, play crucial roles, not only in the maintenance of tissue integrity, but also in the regulation of many aspects of cell behavior. We investigated the expression of "classic" E-, N- and P-cadherins in bone marrow-derived cultured mast cells (BMMC) and peritoneal mast cells (PMC) from mice. Flow cytometric analysis and immunocytochemical staining indicated that E-cadherin was expressed on the cell surface of BMMC and also at lower levels on PMC. N-cadherin was also expressed on the surface of BMMC, but not of PMC, whereas P-cadherin expression was seen in neither cell type. Significant expression of E- and N-cadherin mRNA was observed in BMMC by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), but PMC expressed only E-cadherin mRNA. Western blotting analysis indicated expression of alpha- and beta-catenins and p120-catenin (or p120 cas) in BMMC, whereas PMC showed less intense expression of alpha- and beta-catenins with high levels of p120 expression. Analyses of beta-catenin or E-cadherin immunoprecipitates from BMMC lysate revealed that alpha-catenin, beta-catenin, and E-cadherin were co-precipitated, suggesting that E-cadherin and catenins form a complex in mast cells. Addition of a blocking antibody of homophilic E-cadherin interactions, or a synthetic E-cadherin-binding decapeptide containing the histidine-alanine-valine (HAV) sequence in methylcellulose cultures of gut intraepithelial mononuclear cells or BMMC, significantly suppressed the clonal growth of mast cells. Furthermore, the blocking antibody or synthetic decapeptide significantly suppressed BMMC adhesion to E-cadherin-expressing F9 cell monolayers. These results indicated that E-cadherin and associated cytoplasmic proteins in mast cells might be involved in the regulation of certain stages of mast cell differentiation and cell-cell interactions.