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Epithelial cell layers are interconnected by a meshwork of tight junction (TJ) protein strands, which are localized within apicolateral membranes. The proteins that form TJs are regarded to provide a static barrier, determining epithelial properties. However, recent findings in the field of barriology suggest that TJs contribute to more physiological aspects than indicated by the sum of the qualities of the single TJ proteins. Generally, TJs exhibit four major functions: (i) a "gate function," defining transepithelial permeability (i.e., barrier) properties, (ii) a "fence function" determining epithelial cell polarity, (iii) a "signaling function," affecting regulatory pathways, and (iv) a "stabilizing function," maintaining the integrity of the epithelium. This review presents a critical view on how the efficacy of physiological processes in epithelia and thus organ function might be improved by changes in the expression of claudins, the latter representing the largest and most variable family of TJ proteins. Major focus is set on (i) the coordinated regulation of transport and barrier in the intestine, (ii) the role of TJs in defining the route for antigen uptake and presentation in intestinal Peyer's patches, and (iii) the TJ function in mammary glands in response to milk accumulation, which represent impressive examples to highlight the amplification of epithelial functions by TJ proteins. © 2017 IUBMB Life, 69(5):290-296, 2017.