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Open Access Research article

CD24 regulated gene expression and distribution of tight junction proteins is associated with altered barrier function in oral epithelial monolayers

Ping Ye*, Mangala A Nadkarni, Mary Simonian and Neil Hunter

Author Affiliations

Institute of Dental Research, Westmead Millennium Institute and Westmead Centre for Oral Health, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia

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BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-2

Published: 13 January 2009



Control of intercellular penetration of microbial products is critical for the barrier function of oral epithelia. We demonstrated that CD24 is selectively and strongly expressed in the cells of the epithelial attachment to the tooth and the epithelial lining of the diseased periodontal pocket and studies in vitro showed that CD24 regulated expression of the epithelial intercellular adhesion protein E-cadherin.


In the present study, the barrier function of oral epithelial cell monolayers to low molecular weight dextran was assayed as a model for the normal physiological function of the epithelial attachment to limit ingress of microbial products from oral microbial biofilms. Paracellular transfer of low molecular weight dextran across monolayers of oral epithelial cells was specifically decreased following incubation with anti-CD24 peptide antibody whereas passage of dextran across the monolayer was increased following silencing of mRNA for CD24. Changes in barrier function were related to the selective regulation of the genes encoding zonula occludens-1, zonula occludens-2 and occludin, proteins implicated in tight junctions. More particularly, enhanced barrier function was related to relocation of these proteins to the cell periphery, compatible with tight junctions.


CD24 has the constitutive function of maintaining expression of selected genes encoding tight junction components associated with a marginal barrier function of epithelial monolayers. Activation by binding of an external ligand to CD24 enhances this expression but is also effective in re-deployment of tight junction proteins that is aligned with enhanced intercellular barrier function. These results establish the potential of CD24 to act as a potent regulator of the intercellular barrier function of epithelia in response to local microbial ecology.