E-cadherin and catenins: molecules with versatile roles in normal and neoplastic epithelial cell biology

Microsc Res Tech. 1998 Nov 1;43(3):224-32. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0029(19981101)43:3<224::AID-JEMT4>3.0.CO;2-Q.


E-cadherin and its associated cytoplasmic proteins alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenin, play a crucial role in epithelial cell-cell adhesion and in the maintenance of tissue architecture. Perturbation in the expression or function of any of these molecules results in loss of intercellular adhesion, with possible consequent cell transformation and tumour progression. The catenins are connected to many structural and functional proteins, which in turn influence their functions. Among these molecules are type 1 growth factor receptors, which along with other molecules are believed to alter the function of catenins through tyrosine phosphorylation. A recent finding is the association between the catenins and the adenomatous polyposis coli gene product (APC). APC mutation is an early event in colorectal carcinogenesis. It may possibly do so through perturbation of the critical cadherin/catenin complex. Further studies of the cadherin/catenin complex and its connections may give insight into the early molecular interactions critical to the initiation and progression oftumours, which should aid in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for both prevention and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • Desmoplakins
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators*
  • alpha Catenin
  • beta Catenin
  • gamma Catenin


  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • CTNNA1 protein, human
  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Desmoplakins
  • JUP protein, human
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Trans-Activators
  • alpha Catenin
  • beta Catenin
  • gamma Catenin