Immunocytochemical studies of the interactions of cadherins and catenins in the early Xenopus embryo

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Thomas Kurth - , Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology (Author)
  • I V Fesenko - (Author)
  • S Schneider - , Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology (Author)
  • F E Münchberg - (Author)
  • T O Joos - (Author)
  • T P Spieker - (Author)
  • P Hausen - (Author)


Linkage of cadherins to the cytoskeleton is crucial for their adhesive function. Since alpha- and beta-catenin play a key role in this linkage, these proteins are possible targets for processes that control cell-cell adhesion. To achieve a better understanding of the regulation of cell-cell adhesion in embryonic morphogenesis, we used immunohistology to investigate how in Xenopus blastomeres catenins respond to disturbances in the expression of maternal cadherins. Overexpression of myc-tagged maternal cadherin leads to a proportionate increase of the level of beta-catenin. The two proteins colocalize in the endoplasmic reticulum, in cytoplasmic vesicles, and along the cell membrane, indicating that the beta-catenin binds to overexpressed cadherin early in its passage to the plasma membrane. Expression of cadherin is essential for the stable presence of beta-catenin, as depletion from maternal cadherin mRNA leads to a complete loss of beta-catenin from the blastomeres. alpha-Catenin behaves differently. Overexpression of cadherin leaves the amount and localization of alpha-catenin largely unaffected, and additional cadherin inserts itself into the membrane without a proportionate rise in the level of membrane-bound alpha-catenin. However, cadherin mRNA depletion leads to a redistribution of alpha-catenin from the membrane to the cytoplasm. Thus, cadherin is required to localize alpha-catenin to the membrane, but the amount of alpha-catenin along the membrane seems to be restricted to a certain level which cannot be exceeded. The relevance of these observations for the regulation of cadherin-mediated cell adhesion in the Xenopus embryo is discussed. Additionally, we demonstrate that plakoglobin, like beta-catenin an armadillo repeat protein, shows neither accumulation after overexpression nor colocalization with the overexpressed cadherin.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-69
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

Scopus 0033001685
ORCID /0000-0001-5624-1717/work/142239040



  • Animals, Cadherins/genetics, Cell Membrane/metabolism, Cytoskeletal Proteins/metabolism, Desmoplakins, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc/genetics, Recombinant Fusion Proteins/genetics, Trans-Activators, Xenopus Proteins, Xenopus laevis/embryology, alpha Catenin, beta Catenin, gamma Catenin

Library keywords