Tight regulation of cadherin-mediated intercellular adhesions is critical to both tissue morphogenesis during development and tissue homeostasis in adults. Cell surface expression of the cadherin-catenin complex is often directly correlated with the level of adhesion, however, examples exist where cadherin appears to be inactive and cells are completely non-adhesive. The state of p120-catenin phosphorylation has been implicated in regulating the adhesive activity of E-cadherin but the mechanism is currently unclear. We have found that destabilization of the microtubule cytoskeleton, independent of microtubule plus-end dynamics, dephosphorylates p120-catenin and activates E-cadherin adhesion in Colo 205 cells. Through chemical screening, we have also identified several kinases as potential regulators of E-cadherin adhesive activity. Analysis of several p120-catenin phosphomutants suggests that gross dephosphorylation of p120-catenin rather than that of specific amino acids may trigger E-cadherin adhesion. Uncoupling p120-catenin binding to E-cadherin at the membrane causes constitutive adhesion in Colo 205 cells, further supporting an inhibitory role of phosphorylated p120-catenin on E-cadherin activity
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