- Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is typified by the accumulation of fluid-filled cysts and abnormalities in renal epithelial cell function. The disease is principally caused by mutations in the gene encoding polycystin-1, a large basolateral plasma membrane protein expressed in kidney epithelial cells. Our studies reveal that, in normal kidney cells, polycystin-1 forms a complex with the adherens junction protein E-cadherin and its associated catenins, suggesting a role in cell adhesion or polarity. In primary cells from ADPKD patients, the polycystin-1/polycystin-2/E-cadherin/beta-catenin complex was disrupted and both polycystin-1 and E-cadherin were depleted from the plasma membrane as a result of the increased phosphorylation of polycystin-1. The loss of E-cadherin was compensated by the transcriptional upregulation of the normally mesenchymal N-cadherin. Increased cell surface N-cadherin in the disease cells in turn stabilized the continued plasma membrane localization of beta-catenin in the absence of E-cadherin. The results suggest that enhanced phosphorylation of polycystin-1 in ADPKD cells precipitates changes in its localization and its ability to form protein complexes that are critical for the stabilization of adherens junctions and the maintenance of a fully differentiated polarized renal epithelium.