We have studied transcription, expression, and membrane localization of components of the E-cadherin-catenin complex stage by stage during mouse preimplantation development. Maternal E-cadherin and alpha- and beta-catenin are stored as mRNA and/or protein in unfertilized eggs and are already assembled into a protein complex at this stage. After fertilization, it is likely that they mediate adhesion of early-stage blastomeres. Biosynthesis of plakoglobin is delayed relative to the other components. The temporal mRNA and protein expression patterns of the components of the cadherin-catenin complex correlate with the presence or absence of potential cytoplasmic polyadenylation elements (CPEs) in the 3'-UTRs of the respective cDNAs. Our results suggest that the components of the E-cadherin-catenin complex derived from both maternal and zygotic gene activity are increasingly accumulated and stored in a nonfunctional form during early cleavage stages and are ready to be used for compaction and the formation of the trophectodermal cell layer.