It has been realized for some time that the loss of epithelial differentiation in carcinomas, which is accompanied by higher mobility and invasiveness of the tumor cells, is a consequence of reduced intercellular adhesion. A variety of recent reports have indicated that the primary cause for the 'scattering' of the cells in invasive carcinomas is a loss of the integrity of intercellular adherens junctions often involving loss of a functional cell-cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin. In the present review, permanent and transient molecular mechanisms are discussed which lead to the impairment of junctional integrity of cells and thus the progression of carcinomas toward a more metastatic state