Cadherins are cell-surface glycoproteins that mediate Ca2+-dependent, homophilic cell-cell adhesion. The classical cadherins, E- and N-cadherins, connect to beta-catenin, the lining protein. There appears to be a relationship between their dysfunction and tumor invasion and metastasis. The aim of our study was to examine the possibility of a relationship between alterations in the E- and N-cadherin and catenin expression and malignancy in astrocytomas. Forty-five astrocytomas (18 glioblastomas, 16 anaplastic astrocytomas, and 11 diffuse astrocytomas) were collected and stained immunohistochemically for cadherins and beta-catenin. None of the astrocytomas were immunoreactive for E-cadherin. N-cadherin and beta-catenin were present at cell-cell borders in 61% of glioblastomas and 31% of anaplastic astrocytomas. The incidence of immunoreactivity for N-cadherin and beta-catenin increased significantly with the histological grade of astrocytomas (p = 0.001, by Kruskal-Wallis test). Moreover, in anaplastic astrocytomas and glioblastomas, the Ki-67 labeling indices in both N-cadherin-positive and beta-catenin-positive cases were higher than that in negative cases (p = 0.05 and 0.03, respectively, by Fisher's exact test). These results suggest that the expression of N-cadherin or beta-catenin may be related to the biological behavior of astrocytomas.