The two major cadherins of endothelial cells are neural (N)-cadherin and vascular endothelial (VE)- cadherin. Despite similar level of protein expression only VE-cadherin is located at cell-cell contacts, whereas N-cadherin is distributed over the whole cell membrane. Cotransfection of VE-cadherin and N-cadherin in CHO cells resulted in the same distribution as that observed in endothelial cells indicating that the behavior of the two cadherins was not cell specific but related to their structural characteristics. Similar amounts of alpha- and beta-catenins and plakoglobin were associated to VE- and N-cadherins, whereas p120 was higher in the VE-cadherin complex. The presence of VE-cadherin did not affect N-cadherin homotypic adhesive properties or its capacity to localize at junctions when cotransfectants were cocultured with cells transfected with N-cadherin only. To define the molecular domain responsible for the VE-cadherin-dominant activity we prepared a chimeric construct formed by VE-cadherin extracellular region linked to N-cadherin intracellular domain. The chimera lost the capacity to exclude N-cadherin from junctions indicating that the extracellular domain of VE-cadherin alone is not sufficient for the preferential localization of the molecule at the junctions. A truncated mutant of VE-cadherin retaining the full extracellular domain and a short cytoplasmic tail (Arg621-Pro702) lacking the catenin-binding region was able to exclude N-cadherin from junctions. This indicates that the Arg621-Pro702 sequence in the VE-cadherin cytoplasmic tail is required for N-cadherin exclusion from junctions. Competition between cadherins for their clustering at intercellular junctions in the same cell has never been described before. We speculate that, in the endothelium, VE- and N-cadherin play different roles; whereas VE-cadherin mostly promotes the homotypic interaction between endothelial cells, N-cadherin may be responsible for the anchorage of the endothelium to other surrounding cell types expressing N-cadherin such as vascular smooth muscle cells or pericytes.