Adherens junctions have been traditionally viewed as building blocks of tissue architecture. The foundations for this view began to change with the discovery that a central component of AJs, beta-catenin, can also function as a transcriptional cofactor in Wnt signaling. In recent years, conventional views have similarly been shaken about the other two major AJ catenins, alpha-catenin and p120-catenin. Catenins have emerged as molecular sensors that integrate cell-cell junctions and cytoskeletal dynamics with signaling pathways that govern morphogenesis, tissue homeostasis, and even intercellular communication between different cell types within a tissue. These findings reveal novel aspects of AJ function in normal tissues and offer insights into how changes in AJs and their associated proteins and cytoskeletal dynamics impact wound-repair and cancer.