A prerequisite of epithelial transport is a paracellular barrier function, which seals the tissue against an uncontrolled leak flux. Moreover, selective paracellular permeability has been shown to be crucial for physiological epithelial transport function. Claudins are tetraspan tight junction proteins which play a major role in paracellular ion permeability across epithelia. The multigene family consists of 24 members and several splice variants which show distinct tissue-specific expression profiles. Moreover, in diseases associated with a loss of barrier function such as forms of inflammatory bowel disease, the expression of claudins is altered. Functional characterization of single claudins revealed specific contribution to barrier properties in epithelia. This review gives an overview on the exploration of molecular structure and barrier function along the intestine and nephron, which not only share mechanisms of selective restriction of the paracellular pathway but also exhibit distinct organ-specific characteristics.
© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Scandinavian Physiological Society.