The tight junction (TJ) is a dynamic structure that is controlled, in part, by the activity of the cytoskeleton. It has become abundantly clear that, in the presence of Ca2+, assembly of the TJ is the result of cellular interactions that trigger a complex cascade of biochemical events that ultimately lead to the formation of an organized network of TJ elements, the composition of which remains unknown. The TJ functions both as a barrier between two fluid compartments and, to a lesser extent, as a fence between apical and basolateral membrane domains. To meet the many physiological and pathological challenges to which epithelia and endothelia are subjected, the TJ must be capable of a rapid and coordinated response, which depends on complex regulatory mechanisms. The precise characterization of the mechanisms involved in the assembly and regulation of the TJ is an area of current active investigation. However, until the biochemical composition of this structure has been defined and its gene identified, the TJ will continue to be an elusive yet tantalizing challenge to the cell biologist.