The tight junction (TJ) determines epithelial barrier function. Actin depolymerization disrupts TJ structure and barrier function, but the mechanisms of this effect remain poorly understood. The goal of this study was to define these mechanisms. Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein-, enhanced yellow fluorescent protein-, or monomeric red fluorescent protein 1-fusion proteins of beta-actin, occludin, claudin-1, ZO-1, clathrin light chain A1, and caveolin-1 were imaged by time-lapse multidimensional fluorescence microscopy with simultaneous measurement of transepithelial electrical resistance (TER). Actin depolymerization was induced with latrunculin A (LatA). Within minutes of LatA addition TER began to fall. This coincided with occludin redistribution and internalization. In contrast, ZO-1 and claudin-1 redistribution occurred well after maximal TER loss. Occludin internalization and TER loss, but not actin depolymerization, were blocked at 14 degrees C, suggesting that membrane traffic is required for both events. Inhibition of membrane traffic with 0.4 M sucrose also blocked occludin internalization and TER loss. Internalized occludin colocalized with caveolin-1 and dynamin II, but not with clathrin, and internalization was blocked by dominant negative dynamin II (K44A), but not by Eps15Delta95-295 expression. Inhibition of caveolae-mediated endocytosis by cholesterol extraction prevented both LatA-induced TER loss and occludin internalization. Thus, LatA-induced actin depolymerization causes TJ structural and functional disruption by mechanisms that include caveolae-mediated endocytosis of TJ components.