Cadherins in development: cell adhesion, sorting, and tissue morphogenesis

Genes Dev. 2006 Dec 1;20(23):3199-214. doi: 10.1101/gad.1486806.


Tissue morphogenesis during development is dependent on activities of the cadherin family of cell-cell adhesion proteins that includes classical cadherins, protocadherins, and atypical cadherins (Fat, Dachsous, and Flamingo). The extracellular domain of cadherins contains characteristic repeats that regulate homophilic and heterophilic interactions during adhesion and cell sorting. Although cadherins may have originated to facilitate mechanical cell-cell adhesion, they have evolved to function in many other aspects of morphogenesis. These additional roles rely on cadherin interactions with a wide range of binding partners that modify their expression and adhesion activity by local regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and diverse signaling pathways. Here we examine how different members of the cadherin family act in different developmental contexts, and discuss the mechanisms involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Vertebrates / embryology
  • Vertebrates / growth & development


  • Cadherins