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BioMed Research International
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 6137541, 5 pages
Review Article

Tricellular Tight Junctions in the Inner Ear

Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan

Received 29 January 2016; Accepted 3 April 2016

Academic Editor: Hela Azaiez

Copyright © 2016 Shin-ichiro Kitajiri and Tatsuya Katsuno. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Tight junctions (TJs) are structures that seal the space between the epithelial cell sheets. In the inner ear, the barrier function of TJs is indispensable for the separation of the endolymphatic and perilymphatic spaces, which is essential for the generation and maintenance of the endocochlear potential (EP). TJs are formed by the intercellular binding of membrane proteins, known as claudins, and mutations in these proteins cause deafness in humans and mice. Within the epithelial cell sheet, however, a bound structure is present at the site where the corners of three cells meet (tricellular tight junctions (tTJs)), and the maintenance of the barrier function at this location cannot be explained by the claudins alone. Tricellulin and the angulin family of proteins (angulin-1/LSR, angulin-2/ILDR1, and angulin-3/ILDR2) have been identified as tTJ-associated proteins. Tricellulin and ILDR1 are localized at the tTJ and alterations in these proteins have been reported to be involved in deafness. In this review, we will present the current state of knowledge for tTJs.