Biophysical properties of cadherin bonds do not predict cell sorting

Quanming Shi, Yuan Hung Chien, Deborah Leckband

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Differential binding between cadherin subtypes is widely believed to mediate cell sorting during embryogenesis. However, a fundamental unanswered question is whether cell sorting is dictated by the biophysical properties of cadherin bonds, or by broader, cadherin-dependent differences in intercellular adhesion or membrane tension. This report describes atomic force microscope measurements of the strengths and dissociation rates of homophilic and heterophilic cadherin (CAD) bonds. Measurements conducted with chicken N-CAD, canine E-CAD, and Xenopus C-CAD demonstrated that all three cadherins cross-react and form multiple, intermolecular bonds. The mechanical and kinetic properties of the heterophilic bonds are similar to the homophilic interactions. The thus quantified bond parameters, together with previously reported adhesion energies were further compared with in vitro cell aggregation and sorting assays, which are thought to mimic in vivo cell sorting. Trends in quantified biophysical properties of the different cadherin bonds do not correlate with sorting outcomes. These results suggest that cell sorting in vivo and in vitro is not governed solely by biophysical differences between cadherin subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28454-28463
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 17 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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