The epithelial apical-junctional complex is a key regulator of cellular functions. In addition, it is an important target for microbial pathogens that manipulate the cell to survive, proliferate and sometimes persist within a host. Out of a myriad of potential molecular targets, some bacterial and viral pathogens have selected a subset of protein targets at the apical-junctional complex of epithelial cells. Studying how microbes use these targets also teaches us about the inherent physiological properties of host molecules in the context of normal junctional structure and function. Thus, we have learned that three recently uncovered components of the apical-junctional complex of the Ig superfamily--junctional adhesion molecule, Nectin and the coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor--are important regulators of junction structure and function and represent critical targets of microbial virulence gene products.