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.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.