Claudins (Cldn) form the backbone of tight junction (TJ) strands and thereby regulate paracellular permeability for solutes and water. Polymeric strands are formed by homo- and heterophilic cis- and trans-interactions between claudin protomers. Crystal structures of some claudins have been resolved; however, the mechanism by which claudins assemble into TJ strands remains unclear. To elucidate strand architecture, TJ-like strands were reconstituted in HEK293 cells by claudin transfection. Determinants of prototypic, classic barrier-forming claudins (Cldn1, -3, and -5) involved in strand formation were analyzed by mutagenesis. The capability of claudin constructs to interact in trans and to form strands was investigated by cell contact-enrichment assays and freeze-fracture electron microscopy. Residues in extracellular loops 1 and 2 of the claudins affecting strand formation were identified. Using homology modeling and molecular docking, we tested working concepts for the arrangement of claudin protomers within TJ strands. We show that the charge of Lys65 in Cldn1 and Glu158 in Cldn3, but not of Arg30 or Asp145 in Cldn3, and the polarity of Gln56 and Gln62 in Cldn3 and of Gln57 in Cldn5 are necessary for TJ strand formation. These residues are all conserved among barrier-forming classic claudins. The results contribute to mechanistic understanding of claudin-based regulation of paracellular permeability.
Keywords: claudin; freeze fracture; homology modeling; mutagenesis; strands; tight junction.
© 2017 New York Academy of Sciences.