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Methods. 2003 Jul;30(3):228-34.

Functional analysis of tight junctions.

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Division of Cell Biology, Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, Bath Street, EC1V 9EL, London, UK.


Epithelial and endothelial cells are joined to each other via a set of intercellular junctions that differ in their morphological appearance, composition, and function. The tight junction or zonula occludens is the intercellular junction that regulates diffusion between cells and therefore allows endothelia and epithelia to form cellular barriers that separate compartments of different composition. This intercellular gate formed by tight junctions is not only highly regulated but is size- and ion-selective and, hence, represents a semipermeable diffusion barrier. In epithelia, tight junctions form a morphological and functional border between the apical and basolateral cell surface domains. They directly contribute to the maintenance of cell surface polarity by forming a fence that prevents apical/basolateral diffusion of lipids in the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. Here we describe a set of assays that allow the analysis of tight junctions to determine their integrity and functional state.

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