Computational nanoscopy of tight junctions at the blood–brain barrier interface

Nandhini Rajagopal, Flaviyan Jerome Irudayanathan, Shikha Nangia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The selectivity of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) is primarily maintained by tight junctions (TJs), which act as gatekeepers of the paracellular space by blocking blood-borne toxins, drugs, and pathogens from entering the brain. The BBB presents a significant challenge in designing neurotherapeutics, so a comprehensive understanding of the TJ architecture can aid in the design of novel therapeutics. Unraveling the intricacies of TJs with conventional experimental techniques alone is challenging, but recently developed computational tools can provide a valuable molecular-level understanding of TJ architecture. We employed the computational methods toolkit to investigate claudin-5, a highly expressed TJ protein at the BBB interface. Our approach started with the prediction of claudin-5 structure, evaluation of stable dimer conformations and nanoscale assemblies, followed by the impact of lipid environments, and posttranslational modifications on these claudin-5 assemblies. These led to the study of TJ pores and barriers and finally understanding of ion and small molecule transport through the TJs. Some of these in silico, molecular-level findings, will need to be corroborated by future experiments. The resulting understanding can be advantageous towards the eventual goal of drug delivery across the BBB. This review provides key insights gleaned from a series of state-of-the-art nanoscale simulations (or computational nanoscopy studies) performed on the TJ architecture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5583
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2 2019


  • Blood-Brain barrier
  • Claudin
  • Drug discovery
  • In silico
  • Membrane proteins
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Protein interactions
  • Tight junctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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