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Mol Biosyst. 2008 Aug;4(8):835-50. doi: 10.1039/b719215k. Epub 2008 May 29.

Cadherins in development and cancer.

Author information

  • Department of Molecular Embryology, Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology, Stuebeweg 51, D-79108 Freiburg, Germany. stemmler@immunbio.mpg.de


Proper embryonic development is guaranteed under conditions of regulated cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion. The cells of an embryo have to be able to distinguish their neighbours as being alike or different. Cadherins, single-pass transmembrane, Ca(2+)-dependent adhesion molecules that mainly interact in a homophilic manner, are major contributors to cell-cell adhesion. Cadherins play pivotal roles in important morphogenetic and differentiation processes during development, and in maintaining tissue integrity and homeostasis. Changes in cadherin expression throughout development enable differentiation and the formation of various organs. In addition to these functions, cadherins have strong implications in tumourigenesis, since frequently tumour cells show deregulated cadherin expression and inappropriate switching among family members. In this review, I focus on E- and N-cadherin, giving an overview of their structure, cellular function, importance during development, role in cancer, and of the complexity of Ecadherin gene regulation.

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