Tight junctions create a paracellular barrier in epithelial and endothelial cells protecting them from the external environment. Two different classes of integral membrane proteins constitute the tight junction strands in epithelial cells and endothelial cells, occludin and members of the claudin protein family. In addition, cytoplasmic scaffolding molecules associated with these junctions regulate diverse physiological processes like proliferation, cell polarity and regulated diffusion. In many diseases, disruption of this regulated barrier occurs. This review will briefly describe the molecular composition of the tight junctions and then present evidence of the link between tight junction dysfunction and disease.