The path leading to the discovery of cadherin: In retrospect
Problems of adhesion between cells are undoubtedly one of the key major issues in developmental biology and its related field. It is little doubt that cell adhesion is one of the most fundamental mechanisms underlying the morphogenesis in multicellular animals and that it is intrinsically related to the metastasis of cancer cells as well. The historical source of adhesion studies can be traced to Wilson's work using sponges published in 1907. The present article starts to outline briefly the conceptual history up to a rise of cell adhesion in the 1950s as a problem for understanding morphogenesis in general. A crucial landmark to a recent burst of the interest to adhesion mechanisms in terms of adhesion molecules is the discovery of a group of major molecules functioning cell-to-cell adhesion, cadherins, from a research group at Kyoto University, Japan, which was initiated by myself and very successfully continued by Takeichi. A main part of the present review is to record the path leading to this important discovery based on my own personal experience, including some retrospective anecdotes. The path was initiated with a series of very simple experiments of a naïve question; that is, to examine whether or not different divalent cations were required for cell adhesion in qualitatively different manners.