In addition to their role in maintenance of tissue integrity, cell adhesion molecules regulate the growth and differentiation of stratified squamous epithelia. Reduced expression of E-cadherin and the alpha 2 beta 1, alpha 3 beta 1 and alpha 6 beta 4 integrins is already reported to correlate with poor histological differentiation in oral squamous cell carcinomas. However, it is not clear how closely cadherin and integrin loss are related in any given tumour, nor whether cadherin loss is correlated with changes in expression of the cytoplasmic regulatory proteins known as catenins. Double-label immunofluorescence has been used to stain a panel of 22 oral squamous cell carcinomas with antibodies to ten proteins, including E- and P-cadherin, the major keratinocyte integrin subunits, and alpha-, beta- and gamma-catenin. Overall, E-cadherin expression and integrin expression correlated well with tumour grade, while P-cadherin staining was more variable. All tumours, regardless of differentiation status, showed reduced staining for at least two of the catenins, implying that the adhesive function of E- and P-cadherin could be impaired even when cadherin expression is normal. It is concluded that in all squamous cell carcinomas, regardless of degree of histological differentiation, there is some perturbed expression of cell adhesion molecules and that integrin and E-cadherin loss are closely related.