Cadherins are a family of transmembrane glycoproteins which play a key role in Ca(2+)-dependent cell-cell adhesion. Cytoplasmic domains of these molecules are anchored to the cell cytoskeleton and are required for cadherin function. To elucidate how the function of cadherins is controlled through their cytoplasmic domains, we deleted five different regions in the cytoplasmic domain of E-cadherin. After transfecting L cells with cDNA encoding the mutant polypeptides, we assayed aggregating activity of these transfectants; all these mutant proteins were shown to have an extracellular domain with normal Ca(2+)-sensitivity and molecular weight. Two mutant polypeptides with deletions in the carboxy half of the cytoplasmic domain, however, did not promote cell-cell adhesion and had also lost the ability to bind to the cytoskeleton, whereas the mutant molecules with deletions of other regions retained the ability to promote cell adhesion and to anchor to the cytoskeleton. Thus, the cytoplasmic domain contains a subdomain which was involved in the cell adhesion and cytoskeleton-binding functions. When E-cadherin in F9 cells or in L cells transfected with wild-type or functional mutant cadherin polypeptides was solubilized with nonionic detergents and immunoprecipitated, two additional 94 and 102 kDa components were coprecipitated. The 94 kDa component, however, was not detected in the immunoprecipitates from cells expressing the mutant cadherins which had lost the adhesive function. These results suggest that the interaction of the carboxy half of the cytoplasmic domain with the 94 kDa component regulates the cell binding function of the extracellular domain of E-cadherin.