Adhesion molecule signalling: not always a sticky business

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2011 Mar;12(3):189-97. doi: 10.1038/nrm3068.


The signalling activity of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) such as cadherins, immunoglobulin-like CAMs or integrins has long been considered to be a direct consequence of their adhesive properties. However, there are physiological and pathological processes that reduce or even abrogate the adhesive properties of CAMs, such as cleavage, conformational changes, mutations and shedding. In some cases these 'adhesion deficient' CAMs still retain signalling properties through their cytoplasmic domains and/or their mutated or truncated extracellular domains. The ability of CAMs to activate signal transduction cascades in the absence of cell adhesion significantly extends their range of biological activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / physiology*
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Cadherins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Receptors, Growth Factor