Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 449-462

First online:

The Organization of Tight Junctions in Epithelia: Implications for Mammary Gland Biology and Breast Tumorigenesis

  • Masahiko ItohAffiliated withLife Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Email author 
  • , Mina J. BissellAffiliated withLife Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Tight junctions (TJs), the most apical components of the cell–cell junctional complexes, play a crucial role in the establishment and maintenance of cell polarity within tissues. In secretory glandular tissues, such as the mammary gland, TJs are crucial for separating apical and basolateral domains. TJs also create the variable barrier regulating paracellular movement of molecules through epithelial sheets, thereby maintaining tissue homeostasis. Recent advances reveal that TJs exist as macromolecular complexes comprised of several types of membrane proteins, cytoskeletal proteins, and signaling molecules. Many of these components are regulated during mammary gland development and pregnancy cycles, and several have received much attention as possible “tumor suppressors” during progression to breast cancer.

tight junctions barrier permeability fence polarity PDZ domain mammary gland