The transmembrane domain proteins of the claudin superfamily are the major structural components of cellular tight junctions. One family member, claudin-1, also associates with tetraspanin CD81 as part of a receptor complex that is essential for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection of the liver. To understand the molecular basis of claudin-1/CD81 association we previously produced and purified milligram quantities of functional, full-length CD81, which binds a soluble form of HCV E2 glycoprotein (sE2). Here we report the production, purification and characterization of claudin-1. Both yeast membrane-bound and detergent-extracted, purified claudin-1 were antigenic and recognized by specific antibodies. Analytical ultracentrifugation demonstrated that extraction with n-octyl-β-d-glucopyranoside yielded monodispersed, dimeric pools of claudin-1 while extraction with profoldin-8 or n-decylphosphocholine yielded a dynamic mixture of claudin-1 oligomers. Neither form bound sE2 in line with literature expectations, while further functional analysis was hampered by the finding that incorporation of claudin-1 into proteoliposomes rendered them intractable to study. Dynamic light scattering demonstrated that claudin-1 oligomers associate with CD81 in vitro in a defined molar ratio of 1∶2 and that complex formation was enhanced by the presence of cholesteryl hemisuccinate. Attempts to assay the complex biologically were limited by our finding that claudin-1 affects the properties of proteoliposomes. We conclude that recombinant, correctly-folded, full-length claudin-1 can be produced in yeast membranes, that it can be extracted in different oligomeric forms that do not bind sE2 and that a dynamic preparation can form a specific complex with CD81 in vitro in the absence of any other cellular components. These findings pave the way for the structural characterization of claudin-1 alone and in complex with CD81.