Tight junctions are the most apically localized part of the epithelial junctional complex. They regulate the permeability and polarity of cell layers and create compartments in cell membranes. Claudins are structural molecules of tight junctions. There are 27 claudins known, and expression of different claudins is responsible for changes in the electrolyte and solute permeability in cells layers. Studies have shown that claudins and tight junctions also protect multicellular organisms from infections and that some infectious agents may use claudins as targets to invade and weaken the host's defense. In neoplastic diseases, claudin expression may be up- or downregulated. Since their expression is associated with specific tumor types or with specific locations of tumors to a certain degree, they can, in a restricted sense, also be used as tumor markers. However, the regulation of claudin expression is complex involving growth factors and integrins, protein kinases, proto-oncogens and transcription factors. In this review, the significance of claudins is discussed in lung disease and development.