The function of cadherin cell adhesion molecules is thought to be regulated by a group of cytoplasmic proteins, including alpha-catenin. We identified a subtype of alpha-catenin, termed alpha N-catenin, which is associated with N-cadherin and expressed mainly in the nervous system. cDNA transfection experiments showed that alpha N-catenin can also bind with E-cadherin. To investigate the role of alpha N-catenin, we transfected lung carcinoma PC9 cells, which express E-cadherin and beta-catenin but neither alpha- nor alpha N-catenin, with alpha N-catenin cDNA. While parental PC9 grew as isolated cells, the transfectant lines formed aggregates in which cells were tightly adhered to each other, showing epithelial arrangements, and they occasionally gave rise to cystic spheres. These results suggest that alpha N-catenin is crucial not only for cadherin function but also for organization of multicellular structures.