Tight junctions control paracellular permeability. Here, we analyzed the impact of residues in the second extracellular loop (ECL2) of mouse claudin-5 on paracellular permeability. Stable expression of claudin-5(wild type) in MDCK-II cells-but not that of mutants R145A, Y148A, Y158A or E159Q-increased transepithelial electrical resistance and decreased fluorescein permeation. Expression of claudin-5(Y148A), (Y158A) or (E159Q) enhanced permeability of FITC-dextran(10 kDa), which was unchanged in cells expressing claudin-5(wild type) or claudin-5(R145A). In contrast, targeting to tight junctions, strand morphology and tight junction assembly were unchanged. It is concluded that R145 is unessential for trans-interaction of claudin-5, but necessary for tightening against small solutes and ions. The highly conserved residues Y148, Y158 and E159 in ECL2 of claudin-5 contribute to homo- and/or heterophilic trans-interaction between classic claudins and thereby tighten the paracellular space against ions, small and large molecules. These results provide novel insights into the molecular function of tight junctions.