Role of calcium in tight junction formation between epithelial cells

Am J Physiol. 1990 Dec;259(6 Pt 1):C978-86. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1990.259.6.C978.


Upon transferring confluent monolayers of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells from a low-Ca2+ medium (1-5 microM) to one with 1.8 mM Ca2+ (Ca switch), tight junctions (TJs) assemble and seal, and transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) develops in 4-5 h, presumably through exocytotic fusion that incorporates junctional components to the surface membrane. In the present work we test this possibility and observe 1) that the Ca switch raises the cytosolic concentration of this ion; 2) that it also increases the membrane area by 22%; 3) that chloroquine, a drug which prevents exocytosis, blocks both the increase of surface membrane and the sealing of TJs; and 4) that if monolayers are not permanently switched to 1.8 mM Ca2+, but are subject to a 15-min pulse, cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration [( Ca2+]c) transiently increases but returns to low values (14 +/- 11 nM) and TER does not develop. Comparisons of the time course of TJ sealing with levels of [Ca2+]c, as well as the relationship between these parameters and extracellular Ca2+ levels, suggest that this ion may act from the extracellular side or in a narrow intracellular domain in the close vicinity of the plasma membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affinity Labels / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Chloroquine / pharmacology
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Egtazic Acid / pharmacology
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Gallic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Gallic Acid / pharmacology
  • Indoles
  • Intercellular Junctions / drug effects
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology*
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Kinetics
  • Mannitol / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • Affinity Labels
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Indoles
  • Indo-1 pentaacetoxymethyl ester
  • Mannitol
  • Egtazic Acid
  • 8-(N,N-diethylamino)octyl-3,4,5-trimethoxybenzoate
  • Gallic Acid
  • Chloroquine
  • Verapamil
  • 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid
  • Calcium