Revealing How Cells Stick Together to Make Tissue

January 10, 2020
Revealing How Cells Stick Together to Make Tissue
Structure of the complex of α-catenin (green) β-catenin (magenta) and cadherin (orange) determined using SANS with contrast variation methods.

Scientific Achievement

The cadherin-catenin adhesion complex is the central component of the cell-cell adhesion adherens junctions that transmit mechanical stress from cell to cell. This study reveals that it displays a wide spectrum of flexible structures, suggesting a dynamic mechanism in mechanotransduction for cell–cell adhesion.​

Significance and Impact

The adherens junction binds to actin filaments to hold cells together. Failure of these complexes is associated with cancer and vascular disease, which illustrates the need to understand their structure and function.​

Research Details

  • The ternary protein complex of α-catenin, β-catenin and a truncated cadherin was studied using small-angle x-ray and neutron scattering and electron microscopy to determine the overall structure of the complex and the organization of the subunits within it.​

"An ensemble of flexible conformations underlies mechanotransduction by the cadherin–catenin adhesion complex,"

Martin Bush, Bashir M. Alhanshali, Shuo Qian, Christopher B. Stanley, William T. Heller, Tsutomu Matsui, Thomas M. Weiss, Iain D. Nicholl, Thomas Walz, David J. E. Callaway, Zimei Bu,

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct 2019, 116 (43) 21545-21555; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1911489116