The tight junction (TJ) regulates epithelial cell polarity and barrier including permeability of the paracellular pathway. Occludin was the first integral membrane protein to be discovered, but it is not indispensable for the formation of TJ strands. The physiological function of occludin is still unclear, although occludin-deficient mice show very complex abnormalities in various organs without overt dysfunction of the TJ. To investigate the role of occludin in TJ expression and apoptosis regulated by survival signal transduction pathways such as MAPK and Akt, we performed primary culture of hepatocytes and established hepatic cell lines from occludin-deficient mice. In primary cultures of occludin-deficient mouse hepatocytes, claudin-2 expression and apoptosis were induced by down-regulation of the activation of MAPK and Akt. In the hepatic cell lines derived from occludin-deficient mice, claudin-2 expression and serum-free induced apoptosis were also increased by down-regulation of the activation of MAPK and Akt. Furthermore, in the hepatic cell lines transiently transfected with mouse and rat occludin genes, induction of claudin-2 expression and the apoptosis were inhibited with increases in activation of MAPK and Akt. These findings show that occludin plays a crucial role in claudin-2-dependent TJ function and the apoptosis involving MAPK and Akt signaling pathways in hepatocytes.