Classical cadherins are cell-surface glycoproteins that mediate calcium-dependent cell adhesion. The cytoplasmic domain of these glycoproteins is linked to the cytoskeleton through the catenins (alpha, beta and gamma). The catenins are intracellular polypeptides that are part of a complex sub-membranous network modulating the adhesive ability of the cells. One approach to elucidate the role of these molecules in the cell is to investigate their distribution during mouse development and in adult tissues. This study reports that catenins are widely expressed but in varying amounts in embryos and adult tissues. The expression of all three catenins is most prominent in the adult heart muscle and in epithelia of all developmental stages. In other embryonic and adult tissues, lower expression of catenins was detected, e.g., in smooth muscle or connective tissue. Catenins are coexpressed with various cadherins in different tissues. Gastrulation is the first time during embryogenesis when a discrepancy occurs between the expression of catenins and E-cadherin. E-cadherin expression is suppressed in mesodermal cells but not the expression of catenins. This discrepancy suggests that another cadherin may interact with catenins. Similarly, E-cadherin is generally expressed in adult liver but not in the regions surrounding the central veins. In contrast, catenins are uniformly expressed in the liver, suggesting that they are associated with other cadherins in E-cadherin negative cells. Finally, the three catenins are not always concurrently expressed. For example, in peripheral nerves, only beta-catenin is observable, and in smooth muscle plakoglobin is not detectable.