In the intestine, effective epithelial barrier formation requires the presence of tight junctions, which regulate the passage of ions and molecules through the paracellular space. Defects associated with the tight junction contribute to barrier dysfunction, diarrhea, and extensive nutrient and protein loss in intestinal diseases. In immune-mediated intestinal diseases, cytokines secreted in the lamina propria are thought to be a primary driver of barrier loss. My preliminary in vitro studies demonstrate that two cytokines known to be elevated in inflammatory bowel disease, IL-13 and TNF, induce barrier dysfunction through functionally distinct pore and leak pathways. IL-13 induces the formation of tight junction claudin-2 pores resulting in increased permeability of small cations, but not large ions o macromolecules. In contrast, TNF increases non-selective tight junction leak to small and large ions and molecules by inducing occludin internalization. Further, I have shown that these two pathways are differentially regulated by casein kinase II dependent regulation of claudin- 2 pore stability and MLCK dependent internalization of occludin. During my K08 studies, I have developed an approach to study local tight junction function in submicron segments of tight junction. This has permitted me to define tight junction function with unprecedented molecular resolution. While my K08 award continues to support my ongoing studies of how these pathways are regulated in cultured epithelial monolayers, these R03 studies will define regulation of pore and leak pathway function in a more complex in vivo setting. My central hypothesis is that the relative contribution of pore and leak pathway permeability depends on the interplay of different classes of dynamic tight junction channel openings and closings with varying size and charge selectivity properties. To test this hypothesis in vivo, I intend to study regulation of pore and leak pathways in intact mouse mucosa. Using global measurements I will determine the mechanisms that regulate tight junction claudin-2 pore function as well as occludin- and tricellulin-dependent leak permeability. In addition, I will adapt my local patch clamp approach to study the role of claudin-2, occludin, and tricellulin to local tight junction opening events in mouse mucosa. In summary, these studies will define the relative contribution and molecular aspects of pore and leak pathway function in vivo. The results are expected to be directly applicable to understanding the roles of TNF and IL-13 in intestinal diseases such as IBD, and are further expected to provide novel approaches to study barrier dysfunction in patients in the near future. This will aid in the rational development of specific therapies targeting molecular alterations responsible for barrier dysfunction.

Public Health Relevance

Intestinal barrier dysfunction contributes to diarrhea and nutrient and protein loss in intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and is tied to alterations of the paracellular tight junction barrier. From studies of cultured epithelial monolayers, it is known that barrier dysfunction involves at least two distinct pathways: a claudin dependent pore pathway and an occludin-dependent leak pathway, which can be differentiated on the basis of size and charge selectivity in vitro, but the function of these pathways in intact tissue is unknown. This project will define the significance of these pathways to in vivo barrier regulation and as potential therapeutic targets, using high resolution epithelia patch clamp recordings coupled with measurements of tight junction charge- and size-selectivity in mouse mucosa.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Digestive Diseases and Nutrition C Subcommittee (DDK)
Program Officer
Podskalny, Judith M,
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Weber, Christopher R; Turner, Jerrold R (2017) Dynamic modeling of the tight junction pore pathway. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1397:209-218
Chen, Peili; Bakke, Danika; Kolodziej, Lauren et al. (2015) Antrum Mucosal Protein-18 Peptide Targets Tight Junctions to Protect and Heal Barrier Structure and Function in Models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis 21:2393-2402
Liang, Guo Hua; Weber, Christopher R (2014) Molecular aspects of tight junction barrier function. Curr Opin Pharmacol 19:84-9