Tight junction proteins in gastrointestinal and liver disease

Gut. 2019 Mar;68(3):547-561. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2018-316906. Epub 2018 Oct 8.


Over the past two decades a growing body of evidence has demonstrated an important role of tight junction (TJ) proteins in the physiology and disease biology of GI and liver disease. On one side, TJ proteins exert their functional role as integral proteins of TJs in forming barriers in the gut and the liver. Furthermore, TJ proteins can also be expressed outside TJs where they play important functional roles in signalling, trafficking and regulation of gene expression. A hallmark of TJ proteins in disease biology is their functional role in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. A causative role of TJ proteins has been established in the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer and gastric cancer. Among the best characterised roles of TJ proteins in liver disease biology is their function as cell entry receptors for HCV-one of the most common causes of hepatocellular carcinoma. At the same time TJ proteins are emerging as targets for novel therapeutic approaches for GI and liver disease. Here we review our current knowledge of the role of TJ proteins in the pathogenesis of GI and liver disease biology and discuss their potential as therapeutic targets.

Keywords: colorectal cancer; hepatitis C; hepatocellular carcinoma; tight junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Claudins / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • Tight Junction Proteins / physiology*
  • Tight Junctions / physiology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • CLDN2 protein, human
  • Claudins
  • Tight Junction Proteins