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J Cell Sci. 2001 Sep;114(Pt 17):3177-88.

alphaT-catenin: a novel tissue-specific beta-catenin-binding protein mediating strong cell-cell adhesion.

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Molecular Cell Biology Unit, Department of Molecular Biology, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB)-Ghent University, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


Cadherins are major cell-cell adhesion proteins whose cytoplasmic domains bind to catenin proteins. Strong intercellular adhesion depends on linkage of the cadherin/catenin complex to the actin cytoskeleton via alpha-catenin. To date, it is not clear how different cell types achieve the variable strength of cell-cell adhesion clearly needed in a multicellular organism. Here, we report the cloning and molecular characterization of alphaT(testis)-catenin, a novel human cDNA encoding a protein with homology to both human alphaE(epithelial)-catenin and alphaN(neural)-catenin. Although originally discovered in testis, alphaT-catenin is expressed in other tissues, the highest levels being observed in heart. Immunohistochemical analysis showed human alphaT-catenin localization at intercalated discs of cardiomyocytes and in peritubular myoid cells of testis. In cells transfected with alphaT-catenin cDNA, interaction with beta-catenin was demonstrated by co-immunoprecipitation. Transfection of alpha-catenin-deficient colon carcinoma cells recruited E-cadherin and beta-catenin to cell-cell contacts and functional cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion was restored in this way. Moreover, compaction of these cells was at least as prominent as in the case of cells expressing endogenous alphaE-catenin. We propose that alphaT-catenin is necessary for the formation of stretch-resistant cell-cell adhesion complexes, in particular, muscle cells.

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