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Keywords:

  • tight junctions;
  • proliferation;
  • signaling;
  • epithelial

The epithelial tight junction (TJ) is the apical-most intercellular junction and serves as a gatekeeper for the paracellular pathway by permitting regulated passage of fluid and ions while restricting movement of large molecules. In addition to these vital barrier functions, TJ proteins are emerging as major signaling molecules that mediate crosstalk between the extracellular environment, the cell surface, and the nucleus. Biochemical studies have recently determined that epithelial TJs contain over a hundred proteins that encompass transmembrane proteins, scaffolding molecules, cytoskeletal components, regulatory elements, and signaling molecules. Indeed, many of these proteins have defined roles in regulating epithelial polarity, differentiation, and proliferation. This review will focus on recent findings that highlight a role for TJ proteins in controlling cell proliferation during epithelial homeostasis, wound healing, and carcinogenesis.