Tight junctions (TJ) are multi-protein complexes located at the apicalmost tip of the lateral membrane in polarised epithelial and endothelial cells. Their principal function is in mediating intercellular adhesion and polarity. Accordingly, it has long been a paradigm that loss of TJ proteins and consequent deficits in cell-cell adhesion are required for tumour cell dissemination in the early stages of the invasive/metastatic cascade. However it is becoming increasingly apparent that TJ proteins play important roles in not just adhesion but also intracellular signalling events, activation of which can contribute to, or even drive, tumour progression and metastasis. In this review, we shall therefore highlight cases wherein the gain of TJ proteins has been associated with signals promoting tumour progression. We will also discuss the potential of overexpressed TJ proteins to act as therapeutic targets in cancer treatment. The overall purpose of this review is not to disprove the fact that loss of TJ-based adhesion contributes to the progression of several cancers, but rather to introduce the growing body of evidence that gain of TJ proteins may have adhesion-independent consequences for promoting progression in other cancers.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland ->