Integrins and cadherins are tri-functional: they bind ligands on other cells or in the extracellular matrix, connect to the cytoskeleton inside the cell, and regulate intracellular signaling pathways. These adhesion receptors therefore transmit mechanical stresses and are well positioned to mediate mechanotransduction. Studies of cultured cells have shown that both integrin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion are intrinsically mechanosensitive. Strengthening of adhesions in response to mechanical stimulation may be a central mechanism for mechanotransduction. Studies of developing organisms suggest that these mechanisms contribute to tissue level responses to tension and compression, thereby linking morphogenetic movements to cell fate decisions.