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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Jun;1257:175-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06533.x.

Claudins and alveolar epithelial barrier function in the lung.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


The alveolar epithelium of the lung constitutes a unique interface with the outside environment. This thin barrier must maintain a surface for gas transfer while being continuously exposed to potentially hazardous environmental stimuli. Small differences in alveolar epithelial barrier properties could therefore have a large impact on disease susceptibility or outcome. Moreover, recent work has focused attention on the alveolar epithelium as central to several lung diseases, including acute lung injury and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Although relatively little is known about the function and regulation of claudin tight junction proteins in the lung, new evidence suggests that environmental stimuli can influence claudin expression and alveolar barrier function in human disease. This review considers recent advances in the understanding of the role of claudins in the breakdown of the alveolar epithelial barrier in disease and in epithelial repair.

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