The Ca2+-dependent cell adhesion molecules, termed cadherins, were previously divided into two subclasses, E- and N-types, with different adhesive specificity. In this study, we identified a novel class of cadherin, termed P-cadherin, using a visceral endoderm cell line PSA5-E. This cadherin was a 118,000-D glycoprotein and distinct from E- and N-cadherins in immunological specificity and molecular mass. In accord with these findings, cells with P-cadherin did not cross-adhere with cells with E-cadherin. P-Cadherin first appeared in developing mouse embryos in the extraembryonic ectoderm and the visceral endoderm at the egg cylinder stage and later was expressed in various tissues. The placenta and the uterine decidua most abundantly expressed this cadherin. The expression of P-cadherin was transient in many tissues, and its permanent expression was limited to certain tissues such as the epidermis, the mesothelium, and the corneal endothelium. When the tissue distribution of P-cadherin was compared with that of E-cadherin, we found that: each cadherin displayed a unique spatio-temporal pattern of expression; P-cadherin was co-expressed with E-cadherin in local regions of various tissues; and onset or termination of expression of P-cadherin was closely associated with connection or segregation of cell layers, as found with other cadherins. These results suggested that differential expression of multiple classes of cadherins play a role in implantation and morphogenesis of embryos by providing cells with heterogenous adhesive specificity.

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