Cadherin-based intercellular adhesions are important determinants of proper tissue architecture. These adhesions must be both stable and dynamic to maintain tissue integrity as cells undergo morphogenetic movements during development. The role of α-catenin in this process has been vigorously debated due to conflicting in vitro and in vivo evidence regarding its molecular mechanism of action. Recent data supports the classical view that α-catenin facilitates actin attachments at adherens junctions, but also suggests that α-catenin may act as a force transducer, and may have additional roles in the cytoplasm. These multiple functions for α-catenin converge on the regulation of adhesion and may help to explain its stable yet dynamic nature.
© 2011 Maiden and Hardin