Tissue organization by cadherin adhesion molecules: dynamic molecular and cellular mechanisms of morphogenetic regulation

Physiol Rev. 2011 Apr;91(2):691-731. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00004.2010.


This review addresses the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cadherin-based tissue morphogenesis. Tissue physiology is profoundly influenced by the distinctive organizations of cells in organs and tissues. In metazoa, adhesion receptors of the classical cadherin family play important roles in establishing and maintaining such tissue organization. Indeed, it is apparent that cadherins participate in a range of morphogenetic events that range from support of tissue integrity to dynamic cellular rearrangements. A comprehensive understanding of cadherin-based morphogenesis must then define the molecular and cellular mechanisms that support these distinct cadherin biologies. Here we focus on four key mechanistic elements: the molecular basis for adhesion through cadherin ectodomains, the regulation of cadherin expression at the cell surface, cooperation between cadherins and the actin cytoskeleton, and regulation by cell signaling. We discuss current progress and outline issues for further research in these fields.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena / genetics*
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Cadherins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface