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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Claudins play a role in normal and tumor cell motility

Patricia G Webb, Monique A Spillman and Heidi K Baumgartner*

Author affiliations

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Reproductive Sciences Mail Stop 8613, Aurora, CO 80045, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-19

Published: 23 March 2013



Claudins are key integral proteins of the tight junction. Although they play an essential role in controlling paracellular diffusion in epithelia, increasing evidence supports a role for these proteins in non-barrier forming activities. To elucidate a potential function for claudins outside of their traditional role in tight junctions, subcellular localization of claudin-4 was determined in normal mammary epithelial cells as well as breast and ovarian cancer cell lines and the effects of a claudin mimic peptide on cell motility were determined.


Immunofluorescence revealed that claudin-4 was localized along cellular projections. Using a fluorescent peptide that mimics a conserved sequence in the second extracellular loop of a set of claudin subtypes, that includes claudin-4, exposure of this loop to the extracellular environment was confirmed in non-polarized cells. This peptide inhibited cell motility when normal mammary epithelial cells as well as breast and ovarian tumor cells were subjected to a wound healing assay. Knockdown of claudin-4 also inhibited cell motility and the mimic peptide had no effect on motility in the claudin-4 knockdown cells. This effect on motility was seen when cells were grown on collagen, but not when cells were grown on non-physiological cell adhesive or fibronectin.


The second extracellular loop of claudins is able to interact with the extracellular environment to promote normal and tumor cell motility when it is not associated with tight junction structures.

Claudin; Motility; Collagen; Mammary cells; Breast cancer; Ovarian cancer