Tight junctions: from simple barriers to multifunctional molecular gates

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2016 Sep;17(9):564-80. doi: 10.1038/nrm.2016.80. Epub 2016 Jun 29.


Epithelia and endothelia separate different tissue compartments and protect multicellular organisms from the outside world. This requires the formation of tight junctions, selective gates that control paracellular diffusion of ions and solutes. Tight junctions also form the border between the apical and basolateral plasma-membrane domains and are linked to the machinery that controls apicobasal polarization. Additionally, signalling networks that guide diverse cell behaviours and functions are connected to tight junctions, transmitting information to and from the cytoskeleton, nucleus and different cell adhesion complexes. Recent advances have broadened our understanding of the molecular architecture and cellular functions of tight junctions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Tight Junctions / chemistry
  • Tight Junctions / physiology*
  • Tight Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Vertebrates / physiology