adherens junction

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adherens junction A cell junction that is commonly observed in epithelial (see EPITHELIUM) cells (e.g. those lining the intestine and those in cardiac muscle cells). At these junctions the cell membranes of the neighbouring cells are separated by a space of 15–25 nm which is filled with a filamentous material. Beneath this, anchoring the junction to the cell cytoplasm, are loosely structured mats of fibres, 7 nm in diameter, thought to be actin filaments. It is thought that these junctions may provide mobility in the regions of the cells in which they are located.

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adherens junction (zonula adherens) A type of cell junction, found especially in epithelial cells, that forms a strengthening and interlocking belt encircling the exterior of adjacent cells. It consists of a band of cadherin molecules (see cell adhesion molecule) on the outside of the transverse cell surface, which are linked through the plasma membrane to a circumferential belt of actin microfilaments inside the cell. The cadherin bands of neighbouring cells are interlocked, thus contributing to the stability and integrity of the cell layer. Compare tight junction.