Tight junctions form continuous intercellular contacts controlling solute movement through the paracellular pathway across epithelia. Paracellular barriers vary among epithelia in electrical resistance and behave as if they are lined with pores that have charge and size selectivity. Recent evidence shows that claudins, a large family (at least 24 members) of intercellular adhesion molecules, form the seal and its variable pore-like properties. This evidence comes from the study of claudins expressed in cultured epithelial cell models, genetically altered mice, and human mutants. We review information on the structure, function, and transcriptional and posttranslational regulation of the claudin family as well as of their evolutionarily distant relatives called the PMP22/EMP/MP20/claudin, or pfam00822, superfamily.