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Transcriptional mechanisms coordinating tight junction assembly during epithelial differentiation.

ABSTRACT

Epithelial tissues form a selective barrier via direct cell-cell interactions to separate and establish concentration gradients between the different compartments of the body. Proper function and formation of this barrier rely on the establishment of distinct intercellular junction complexes. These complexes include tight junctions, adherens junctions, desmosomes, and gap junctions. The tight junction is by far the most diverse junctional complex in the epithelial barrier. Its composition varies greatly across different epithelial tissues to confer various barrier properties. Thus, epithelial cells rely on tightly regulated transcriptional mechanisms to ensure proper formation of the epithelial barrier and to achieve tight junction diversity. Here, we review different transcriptional mechanisms utilized during embryogenesis and disease development to promote tight junction assembly and maintenance of intercellular barrier integrity. We focus particularly on the Grainyhead-like transcription factors and ligand-activated nuclear hormone receptors, two central families of proteins in epithelialization.