The Ca(2+)-dependent cell adhesion molecule uvomorulin is a member of the cadherin gene family. Its cytoplasmic region complexes with structurally defined proteins termed alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenins. Here we show that A-CAM (N-cadherin), another member of this gene family, also associates with catenins suggesting that this complex formation may be a general property of the cadherins. For uvomorulin it has been found that this association with catenins is of crucial importance for the adhesive function, but little is known about the molecular organization of the uvomorulin-catenin complex. Using a combination of biochemical analyses we show that a single complex is composed of one molecule of uvomorulin, one or two molecules of beta-catenin, and one molecule of alpha-catenin. Furthermore, beta-catenin seems to interact more directly with uvomorulin. In pulse-chase experiments beta-catenin is already associated with the 135-kD uvomorulin precursor molecule but the assembly of the newly synthesized alpha-catenin into the complex is only detected around the time of endoproteolytic processing.

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