Organization and function of septate junctions: an evolutionary perspective

Cell Biochem Biophys. 2006;46(1):65-77. doi: 10.1385/CBB:46:1:65.


In most cell types, distinct forms of intercellular junctions have been visualized at the ultrastructural level. Among these, the septate junctions are thought to seal the neighboring cells and thus to function as the paracellular barriers. The most extensively studied form of septate junctions, referred to as the pleated septate junctions, is ultrastructurally distinct with an electron-dense ladder-like arrangement of transverse septa present in invertebrates as well as vertebrates. In invertebrates, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, septate junctions are present in all ectodermally derived epithelia, imaginal discs, and the nervous system. In vertebrates, septate junctions are present in the myelinated nerves at the paranodal interface between the myelin loops and the axonal membrane. In this review, we present an evolutionary perspective of septate junctions, especially their initial identification across phyla, and discuss many common features of their morphology, molecular organization, and functional similarities in invertebrates and vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / ultrastructure
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology*
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Vertebrates