Sorting out a promiscuous superfamily: towards cadherin connectomics

Trends Cell Biol. 2014 Sep;24(9):524-36. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2014.03.007. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


Members of the cadherin superfamily of proteins are involved in diverse biological processes such as morphogenesis, sound transduction, and neuronal connectivity. Key to cadherin function is their extracellular domain containing cadherin repeats, which can mediate interactions involved in adhesion and cell signaling. Recent cellular, biochemical, and structural studies have revealed that physical interaction among cadherins is more complex than originally thought. Here we review work on new cadherin complexes and discuss how the classification of the mammalian family can be used to search for additional cadherin-interacting partners. We also highlight some of the challenges in cadherin research; namely, the characterization of a cadherin connectome in biochemical and structural terms, as well as the elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying the functional diversity of nonclassical cadherins in vivo.

Keywords: adhesion; brain development.; cancer; hearing; mechanotransduction; neuronal connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Communication / genetics*
  • Connectome*
  • Hearing / genetics
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Multiprotein Complexes / genetics
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Cadherins
  • Multiprotein Complexes