Three functions of cadherins in cell adhesion

Curr Biol. 2013 Jul 22;23(14):R626-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.019.


Cadherins are transmembrane proteins that mediate cell-cell adhesion in animals. By regulating contact formation and stability, cadherins play a crucial role in tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis. Here, we review the three major functions of cadherins in cell-cell contact formation and stability. Two of those functions lead to a decrease in interfacial tension at the forming cell-cell contact, thereby promoting contact expansion--first, by providing adhesion tension that lowers interfacial tension at the cell-cell contact, and second, by signaling to the actomyosin cytoskeleton in order to reduce cortex tension and thus interfacial tension at the contact. The third function of cadherins in cell-cell contact formation is to stabilize the contact by resisting mechanical forces that pull on the contact.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actomyosin / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Mechanical Phenomena
  • Morphogenesis
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Cadherins
  • Actomyosin