Adhesive and signaling functions of cadherins and catenins in vertebrate development.

Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology

PubMedID: 20066120

Stepniak E, Radice GL, Vasioukhin V. Adhesive and signaling functions of cadherins and catenins in vertebrate development. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009;1(5):a002949.
Properly regulated intercellular adhesion is critical for normal development of all metazoan organisms. Adherens junctions play an especially prominent role in development because they link the adhesive function of cadherin-catenin protein complexes to the dynamic forces of the actin cytoskeleton, which helps to orchestrate a spatially confined and very dynamic assembly of intercellular connections. Intriguingly, in addition to maintaining intercellular adhesion, cadherin-catenin proteins are linked to several major developmental signaling pathways crucial for normal morphogenesis. In this article we will highlight the key genetic studies that uncovered the role of cadherin-catenin proteins in vertebrate development and discuss the potential role of these proteins as molecular biosensors of external cellular microenvironment that may spatially confine signaling molecules and polarity cues to orchestrate cellular behavior throughout the complex process of normal morphogenesis.