A major function of adhesion molecules is to bind cells to each other or to the extracellular matrix, but they are much more than "glue". Adhesions in animal tissues must be dynamic-forming, persisting, or declining in regulated fashion- to facilitate the mobility and turnover of tissue cells. Moreover, the majority of adhesion molecules are transmembrane molecules and thus provide links between the cells and their surroundings. This gives rise to another major function of adhesion molecules, the capacity to transduce signals across the hydrophobic barrier imposed by the plasma membrane. Such signal transduction is crucially important to many aspects of cellular function including the regulation of cell motility, gene expression, and differentiation.
The work in this book progresses through four sections. Part I discusses the four major families of adhesion molecules themselves, the integrins (Green and Humphries), the cadherins (Stappert and Kemler), the selectins (Tedder et al.) and the immunoglobulin superfamily (Simmons); part 2 considers junctional complexes involved in cell interactions: focal adhesions and adherens junctions (Ben Ze'ev), des