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Claudins are tetraspan tight junction proteins which have been attributed to primarily determine epithelial barrier function in a wide variety of different organs and tissues. Among this protein family with currently 27 members, single claudins contribute in an organ- and tissue-specific manner to defined properties such as cation-, anion- or water-selective pore functions, sealing functions or ambiguous functions. As the size of tight junction strand particles visualized by freeze-fracture electron microscopy have a diameter of approximately 10 nm, multimeric assembly of tight junction proteins appears to be a basic principle for barrier formation. Moreover, expression patterns of different tissues showed that single claudins appear to specifically co-localize with other claudins, which indicates a cluster formation within tight junction strand particles with a fixed stoichiometry. This review provides a critical view on the current understanding of tight junction protein co-localization within strands. We analyze how tissue specific differences of claudin functions could be dependent on their specific partners for barrier formation. Furthermore, a model of claudin clusters as structural and functional units within tight junction strands is provided. © 2015 IUBMB Life, 67(1):29-35, 2015.