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Technological advances in the large scale analysis of human genetics have generated profound insights into possible genetic contributions to chronic diseases including the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. To date, 163 distinct genetic risk loci have been associated with either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, with a substantial degree of genetic overlap between these 2 conditions. Although many risk variants show a reproducible correlation with disease, individual gene associations only affect a subset of patients, and the functional contribution(s) of these risk variants to the onset of IBD is largely undetermined. Although studies in twins have demonstrated that the development of IBD is not mediated solely by genetic risk, it is nevertheless important to elucidate the functional consequences of risk variants for gene function in relevant cell types known to regulate key physiological processes that are compromised in IBD. This article will discuss IBD candidate genes that are known to be, or are suspected of being, involved in regulating the intestinal epithelial barrier and several of the physiological processes presided over by this dynamic and versatile layer of cells. This will include assembly and regulation of tight junctions, cell adhesion and polarity, mucus and glycoprotein regulation, bacterial sensing, membrane transport, epithelial differentiation, and restitution.