The cytoplasmic domain of classical cadherins is tightly associated with three proteins termed alpha-, beta- and gamma-catenin. These accessory proteins are of central importance for the adhesive properties of this class of cell adhesion molecules. In order to examine the molecular architecture of the cadherin-catenin complex in more detail we have expressed the catenins and the cytoplasmic domain of E-cadherin as fusion proteins in Escherichia coli, and analyzed the interaction of purified recombinant cadherin and catenins in combinatorial protein-protein interaction experiments. The cytoplasmic domain of E-cadherin cannot directly associate with alpha-catenin but interacts with high affinity with beta-catenin, whereas the binding of gamma-catenin (plakoglobin) to E-cadherin is less efficient. alpha- and beta-catenin assemble into a 1:1 heterodimeric complex. The analysis of various truncated beta-catenins revealed that an alpha-catenin binding site in beta-catenin is localized between amino acid positions 120 and 151. The central role of beta-catenin for the assembly of the heterotrimeric E-cadherin/alpha-catenin/beta-catenin complex in mixing experiments with all components was demonstrated. The reconstitution in vitro of the cadherin-catenin complex should allow the study of the interaction with signalling molecules and with the actin-based cytoskeleton.
- © 1994 by Company of Biologists