p120 catenin (p120) is the prototypic member of a growing subfamily of Armadillo-domain proteins found at cell-cell junctions and in nuclei. In contrast to the functions of the classical catenins (alpha-catenin, beta-catenin, and gamma-catenin/plakoglobin), which have been studied extensively, the first clues to p120's biological function have only recently emerged, and its role remains controversial. Nonetheless, it is now clear that p120 affects cell-cell adhesion through its interaction with the highly conserved juxtamembrane domain of classical cadherins, and is likely to have additional roles in the nucleus. Here, we summarize the data on the potential involvement of p120 both in promotion of and in prevension of adhesion, and propose models that attempt to reconcile some of the disparities in the literature. We also discuss the structural relationships and functions of several known p120 family members, as well as the potential roles of p120 in signaling and cancer.

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