The cadherin cell adhesion system plays a central role in cell-cell adhesion in vertebrates, but its homologues are not identified in the invertebrate. alpha-Catenins are a group of proteins associated with cadherins, and this association is crucial for the cadherins' function. Here, we report the cloning of a Drosophila alpha-catenin gene by low stringent hybridization with a mouse alpha E-catenin probe. Isolated cDNAs encoded a 110-kD protein with 60% identity to mouse alpha E-catenin, and this protein was termed D alpha-catenin. The gene of this protein was located at the chromosome band 80B. Immunostaining analysis using a mAb to D alpha-catenin revealed that it was localized to cell-cell contact sites, expressed throughout development and present in a wide variety of tissues. When this protein was immunoprecipitated from detergent extracts of Drosophila embryos or cell lines, several proteins co-precipitated. These included the armadillo product which was known to be a Drosophila homologue of beta-catenin, another cadherin-associated protein in vertebrates, and a 150-kD glycoprotein. These results strongly suggest that Drosophila has a cell adhesion machinery homologous to the vertebrate cadherin-catenin system.

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