Epithelial cell-cell junctions and plasma membrane domains

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Apr;1788(4):820-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2008.07.015. Epub 2008 Jul 28.


Epithelial cells form a barrier against the environment, but are also required for the regulated exchange of molecules between an organism and its surroundings. Epithelial cells are characterised by a remarkable polarization of their plasma membrane, evidenced by the appearance of structurally, compositionally, and functionally distinct surface domains. Here we consider the (in)dependence of epithelial cell polarisation and the function of smaller plasma membrane domains (e.g. adherens junctions, gap junctions, tight junctions, apical lipid rafts, caveolae, and clathrin-coated pits) in the development and maintenance of cell surface polarity. Recent evidence of cross-talk and/or overlap between the different cell-cell junction components and alternate functions of junction components, including gene expression regulation, are discussed in the context of cell surface polarity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adherens Junctions
  • Animals
  • Caveolae / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Coated Pits, Cell-Membrane / physiology
  • Desmosomes / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Membrane Microdomains / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tight Junctions / physiology*


  • Lipid Bilayers