Apert (Ap) syndrome is characterized by premature cranial suture ossification caused by fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR-2) mutations. We studied the role of cadherins and signaling events in the phenotypic alterations induced by the Ap FGFR-2 S252W mutation in mutant immortalized fetal human calvaria osteoblasts. The FGFR-2 mutation caused increased expression of the osteoblast markers alkaline phosphatase (ALP), type 1 collagen (COLIA1), and osteocalcin (OC) in long-term culture. The mutation also increased cell-cell aggregation, which was suppressed by specific neutralizing anti-N- and anti-E-cadherin antibodies. Mutant osteoblasts showed increased N- and E-cadherin, but not N-cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels. This was confirmed in vivo by the abundant immunoreactive N- and E-cadherins in preosteoblasts in the Ap suture whereas N-CAM and alpha- and beta-catenins were unaffected. Neutralizing anti-N-cadherin antibody or N-cadherin antisense (AS) oligonucleotides but not anti-E-cadherin antibody or AS reduced ALP activity as well as ALP, COLIA1, and OC mRNA overexpression in mutant osteoblasts. Analysis of signal transduction revealed increased phospholipase Cgamma (PLCgamma) and protein kinase Calpha (PKCalpha) phosphorylation and increased PKC activity in mutant cells in basal conditions. Inhibition of PKC by calphostin C or the PKCalpha-specific inhibitor Gö6976 suppressed the increased N-cadherin mRNA and protein levels as well as the overexpression of ALP, COLIA1, and OC mRNA in mutant cells. Thus, N-cadherin plays a role in the activation of osteoblast differentiation marker genes in mutant osteoblasts and PKCalpha signaling appears to be involved in the increased N-cadherin and osteoblast gene expression induced by the S252W FGFR-2 mutation in human osteoblasts.