Molecular Architecture of the Blood Brain Barrier Tight Junction Proteins-A Synergistic Computational and in Vitro Approach

Flaviyan Jerome Irudayanathan, John P. Trasatti, Pankaj Karande, Shikha Nangia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) constituted by claudin-5 tight junctions is critical in maintaining the homeostasis of the central nervous system, but this highly selective molecular interface is an impediment for therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative and neurological diseases. Therapeutic strategies that can exploit the paracellular transport remain elusive due to lack of molecular insights of the tight junction assembly. This study focuses on analyzing the membrane driven cis interactions of claudin-5 proteins in the formation of the BBB tight junctions. We have adopted a synergistic approach employing in silico multiscale dynamics and in vitro cross-linking experiments to study the claudin-5 interactions. Long time scale simulations of claudin-5 monomers, in seven different lipid compositions, show formation of cis dimers that subsequently aggregate into strands. In vitro formaldehyde cross-linking studies also conclusively show that cis-interacting claudin-5 dimers cross-link with short methylene spacers. Using this synergistic approach, we have identified five unique dimer interfaces in our simulations that correlate with the cross-linking experiments, four of which are mediated by transmembrane (TM) helices and the other mediated by extracellular loops (ECL). Potential of mean force calculations of these five dimers revealed that the TM mediated interfaces, which can have distinctive leucine zipper interactions in some cases, are more stable than the ECL mediated interface. Additionally, simulations show that claudin-5 dimerization is significantly influenced by the lipid microenvironment. This study captures the fundamental interactions responsible for the BBB tight junction assembly and offers a framework for extending this work to other tight junctions found in the body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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