Structural and functional diversity of cadherin superfamily: are new members of cadherin superfamily involved in signal transduction pathway?

J Cell Biochem. 1996 Jun 15;61(4):531-42. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4644(19960616)61:4<531::aid-jcb6>;2-p.


A large number of cadherins and cadherin-related proteins are expressed in different tissues of a variety of multicellular organisms. These proteins share one property: their extracellular domains consist of multiple repeats of a cadherin-specific motif. A recent structure study has shown that the cadherin repeats roughly corresponding to the folding unit of the extracellular domains. The members of the cadherin superfamily are roughly classified into two groups, classical type cadherins proteins and protocadherin type according to their structural properties. These proteins appear to be derived from a common ancestor that might have cadherin repeats similar to those of the current protocadherins, and to have common functional properties. Among various cadherins, E-cadherin was the first to be identified as a Ca(2+)-dependent homophilic adhesion protein. Recent knockout mice experiments have proven its biological role, but there are still several puzzling unsolved properties of the cell adhesion activity. Other members of cadherin superfamily show divergent properties and many lack some of the expected properties of cell adhesion protein. Since recent studies of various adhesion proteins reveal that they are involved in different signal transduction pathways, the idea that the new members of cadherin superfamily may participate in more general cell-cell interaction processes including signal transduction is an intriguing hypothesis. The cadherin superfamily is structurally divergent and possibly functionally divergent as well.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / chemistry*
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cadherins