Uvomorulin belongs to the group of Ca2+-dependent cell adhesion molecules, which are integral membrane proteins with several structural features in common. In particular, the cytoplasmic part of these proteins is highly conserved in different species, suggesting a common biological function. To test this assumption we transfected a uvomorulin full-length cDNA into uvomorulin-negative mouse NIH 3T3 and L cells. Immunoprecipitations with anti-uvomorulin antibodies detected, in addition to uvomorulin, three independent proteins of 102, 88 and 80 kd which are of host origin and which form complexes with uvomorulin. Using cDNA constructs coding for uvomorulin with cytoplasmic or extracellular deletions it is shown that the 102, 88 and 80 kd proteins complex with the cytoplasmic domain of uvomorulin. Peptide pattern analysis revealed that these three proteins are identical in different mouse cells. When uvomorulin cDNA was introduced into cell lines from other species, such as human HeLa and avian fibroblasts, the expressed uvomorulin was also associated with endogenous 102, 88 and 80 kd proteins and, moreover, each of these proteins showed structural similarities to the respective mouse molecule. A panel of antibodies specific for known cytoplasmic proteins of mol. wts similar to those of the three proteins did not react with any of the described components. This suggests that the 102, 88 and 80 kd proteins constitute a new group of proteins for which we propose the nomenclature of catenin alpha, beta and gamma respectively. The characterization of these proteins provides a first molecular basis for a possible cytoplasmic anchorage of uvomorulin to the cytoskeleton.