Several properties of cadherin-4 and cadherin-5 were characterized by using the cDNA transfection approach. The proteins of both cadherins had a relative molecular mass of about 130 kDa and were present at the cell periphery, especially at cell-cell contact sites. These cadherins were easily digested with trypsin, and Ca2+ protected cadherin-4, but not cadherin-5, from the digestion. In immunoprecipitation, cadherin-4 co-precipitated with two major proteins of 105 kDa and 95 kDa, respectively. The 105 kDa and the 95 kDa proteins are likely to correspond to alpha- and beta-catenins. Cadherin-5 co-precipitated with only one major protein of 95 kDa, but seems to associate with the 105 kDa protein. On the other hand, plakoglobin or gamma-catenin did not co-precipitate well with either cadherin-4 or cadherin-5 in immunoprecipitation, but plakoglobin also appears to associated weakly with these cadherins. Cadherin-4 transfectants aggregated within 30 minutes in a cell aggregation assay, but cadherin-5 transfectants did not aggregate under the same conditions. Furthermore, the transfectants of chimeric cadherin-4 with cadherin-5 cytoplasmic domain showed cell aggregation activity comparable to that of wild-type cadherin-4 transfectants, whereas the transfectants of chimeric cadherin-5 with cadherin-4 cytoplasmic domain did not show appreciable cell aggregation, suggesting that the extracellular domains of cadherins, in conjunction with their cytoplasmic domains, play an important role in cell aggregation activity. These results show that cadherin-4 is very similar to the classical cadherins, whereas cadherin-5 is functionally as well as structurally distinct from classical cadherins.