Cell-cell adhesion mediated by E-cadherin is often lost or disturbed in human carcinomas. For regular adhesive function, E-cadherin has to form complexes with peripheral cytoplasmic catenins which are multifunctional proteins that are also involved in signal transduction and growth regulation. We have analyzed the expression levels of the genes encoding alpha-catenin, beta-catenin and plakoglobin in correlation to the E-cadherin expression levels in cell lines derived from human cervical carcinomas. Reduced mRNA and protein levels were detected for plakoglobin, whereas alpha- and beta-catenin showed only reduced protein (but not mRNA) levels. The alterations in catenin gene expression were often associated with absent or reduced E-cadherin. The findings indicate that a reduction of catenin gene expression may contribute to the development of cervical carcinomas.