Claudins form a family of transmembrane tight junction proteins that play a key role in control and selectivity of paracellular transport. Mutations in claudin-19, which is expressed in kidney, retina, and myelinated peripheral neurons, were identified in familial hypomagnesemia with hypercalciuria and nephrocalcinosis, a hereditary disease causing renal Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) wasting. Here, we studied the distribution and possible functional role of claudin-19 in the renal tubule. By immunofluorescence staining of mouse kidney, claudin-19 was found to be expressed at the tight junction of the thick ascending limb of Henle, the major site of paracellular Mg(2+) reabsorption, where it colocalized with claudin-16, as well as in the thin ascending limb. The role of claudin-19 in paracellular transport was tested by stable transfection into Madin Darby canine kidney II TetOff cells to generate inducible cell lines. Claudin-19 increased the transepithelial electrical resistance and decreased permeability to monovalent and divalent cations, while anion and urea permeability were not affected. Our data suggest that claudin-19 acts as a selective cation barrier at the tight junction. This would be consistent with its physiological role to electrically seal myelinated peripheral neurons. The normal role of claudin-19 in renal tubule function remains to be determined.