Inflammatory bowel disease and the apical junctional complex

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Aug;1072:242-52. doi: 10.1196/annals.1326.017.


A critical function of the intestinal mucosa is to form a barrier that separates luminal contents from the underlying interstitium. This intestinal barrier is primarily regulated by the apical junctional complex (AJC) consisting of tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs) and is compromised in a number of intestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In vitro studies have demonstrated that proinflammatory cytokines, such as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), that are increased in the intestinal mucosa of patients with IBD can induce a leaky mucosal barrier. There is a growing evidence that the increased permeability and altered AJC structure observed in IBD are mediated by internalization of junctional proteins. This review summarizes barrier defects observed in IBD and addresses mechanisms by which proinflammatory cytokines, such as IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, modulate AJC structure and epithelial barrier function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adherens Junctions / immunology
  • Adherens Junctions / pathology
  • Adherens Junctions / physiology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Immunological
  • Tight Junctions / immunology
  • Tight Junctions / pathology
  • Tight Junctions / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-gamma