Gap junctions and blood-tissue barriers

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Gap junction is a cell-cell communication junction type found in virtually all mammalian epithelia and endothelia and provides the necessary "signals" to coordinate physiological events to maintain the homeostasis of an epithelium and/or endothelium under normal physiological condition and following changes in the cellular environment (e.g., stimuli from stress, growth, development, inflammation, infection). Recent studies have illustrated the significance of this junction type in the maintenance of different blood-tissue barriers, most notably the blood-brain barrier and blood-testis barrier, which are dynamic ultrastructures, undergoing restructuring in response to stimuli from the environment. In this chapter, we highlight and summarize the latest findings in the field regarding how changes at the gap junction, such as the result of a knock-out, knock-down, knock-in, or gap junction inhibition and/or its activation via the use of inhibitors and/or activators, would affect the integrity or permeability of the blood-tissue barriers. These findings illustrate that much research is needed to delineate the role of gap junction in the blood-tissue barriers, most notably its likely physiological role in mediating or regulating the transport of therapeutic drugs across the blood-tissue barriers.