Tight junctions (TJs) are intercellular protein complexes that preserve tissue homeostasis and integrity through the control of paracellular permeability and cell polarity. Recent findings have revealed the functional role of TJ proteins outside TJs and beyond their classical cellular functions as selective gatekeepers. This is illustrated by the dysregulation in TJ protein expression levels in response to external and intracellular stimuli, notably during tumorigenesis. A large body of knowledge has uncovered the well-established functional role of TJ proteins in cancer pathogenesis. Mechanistically, TJ proteins act as bidirectional signaling hubs that connect the extracellular compartment to the intracellular compartment. By modulating key signaling pathways, TJ proteins are crucial players in the regulation of cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation, all of which being essential cancer hallmarks crucial for tumor growth and metastasis. TJ proteins also promote the acquisition of stem cell phenotypes in cancer cells. These findings highlight their contribution to carcinogenesis and therapeutic resistance. Moreover, recent preclinical and clinical studies have used TJ proteins as therapeutic targets or prognostic markers. This review summarizes the functional role of TJ proteins in cancer biology and their impact for novel strategies to prevent and treat cancer.
- signaling pathways
- therapeutic targets
- tight junctions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)