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CYT 2113 Cytology I

Lesson 3: Introduction to Different

Types of Epithelial Cells I

Epithelial Tissue
Consists of cells
Fitted tightly together to form a continuous
layer, or, sheet, of cells
Specialized for exchanging materials between
the cell and its environment
Epithelial tissue is organized into two general
types of structures: epithelial sheets and
secretory glands

Epithelial sheets are layers of very tightly

joined cells that cover and line various parts of
the body
One surface of the sheet is typically exposed
because it covers the body (outer layer of the
skin) or lines a cavity, such as the lumen
(cavity) of the intestine

The outer surface of an epithelial layer

attaches to the underlying tissue by a
noncellular basement membrane consisting of
tiny fibers and nonliving polysaccharide
material that the epithelial cells produce

In general, epithelial sheets serve as

boundaries that separate the body from its
surroundings and from the contents of cavities
that open to the outside, such as the digestive
tract lumen
Only selective transfer of materials is possible
between regions separated by an epithelial

The type and extent of controlled exchange

vary, depending on the location and function
of the epithelial tissue
For example, the skin can exchange very little
between the body and surrounding
environment, making it a protective barrier
The epithelial cells lining the small intestine of
the digestive tract are specialized for
absorbing nutrients that have come from
outside the body

Epithelial tissue perform many functions,

 The epithelial layer of the skin, the epidermis,
covers the entire body and protects it from
mechanical injury, chemicals, bacteria and
fluid loss

 The epithelial tissue lining the digestive tract
absorbs nutrients and water into the body
 Some epithelial cells form glands that secrete
cell products such as hormones, enzymes or

 Other epithelial cells are sensory receptors
that receive information from the
 For example, epithelial cells in taste buds and
in the nose specialize as chemical receptors

Epithelial Membrane
Sheet of epithelial tissue and a layer of
underlying connective tissue
Types of epithelial membrane: mucous
membrane and serous membrane
Mucous membrane / mucosa
 Lines a body cavity that opens to the outside of
the body, such as the digestive or respiratory
 The epithelial layer secretes mucus that
lubricates the tissue and protects it from drying

Serous membrane
Lines a body cavity that does not open to the
outside of the body
Consists of simple squamous epithelium over
a thin layer of connective tissue
This type of membrane secretes fluid into the
cavity it lines
Examples of serous membranes are the
pleural membranes lining the pleural cavities
around the lungs and the pericardial
membranes lining the pericardial cavity
around the heart

Classification of Epithelium
The traditional classification of epithelium is
based on two factors:
The number of cell layers and
The shape of the surface cells
The terminology, therefore, reflects only
structure, not function

Epithelium is described as
simple, when it is one cell layer thick
Stratified, when it has two or more cell layers

The individual cells that compose an

epithelium are described as
squamous, when the width of the cell is
greater than its height
Cuboidal, when the width, depth and height
are approximately the same
Columnar, when the height of the cell
appreciably exceeds the width (the term low
columnar is often used when a cells height
only slightly exceeds its other dimensions)

In a stratified epithelium, the shape and

height of the cells usually vary from layer to
layer, but only the shape of the cells that form
the surface layer is used in classifying the
For example, stratified squamous epithelium
consists of more than one layer of cells, and
the surface layer consists of flat or squamous

Two special categories of epithelium are

pseudostratified and transitional

Pseudostratified Epithelium
Appears stratified, although some of the cells
do not reach the free surface; all rest on the
basement membrane
Thus, it is actually a simple epithelium
The distribution of pseudostratified
epithelium is limited in the body
Also it is often difficult to discern whether all
of the cells contact the basement membrane

For these reasons, identification of

pseudostratified epithelium usually depends
on knowing where it is normally found

Pseudostratified Epithelium

Pseudostratified Epithelium
Typical locations:
Trachea and bronchial tree
Ductus deferens
Efferent ductules of epididymis
Major functions:
Conduit (a channel through which water or
other fluid is carried)

Transitional Epithelium (Urothelium)

A term applied to the epithelium lining the
lower urinary tract, extending from the minor
calyces of the kidney down to the proximal
part of the urethra
Urothelium is a stratified epithelium with
specific morphologic characteristics that allow
it to distend

Transitional Epithelium

Transitional (Urothelium)
Typical locations:
Renal calyces
Major functions:
Distensible property

Simple Squamous
Composed of a single layer of cells, which are flat
and plate like
In histologic sections, the nuclei appear flattened
and the cytoplasm is indistinct
Although squamous refers to any flat epithelium,
its use is restricted as many flat epithelia are
given more specific names, e.g. the flat
epithelium lining blood vessels being called

Simple Squamous
Typical locations:
vascular system (endothelium)
Body cavities (mesothelium)
Bowmans capsule (kidney)
Respiratory spaces in lung
Major functions:
exchange, barrier in central nervous system
Exchange and lubrication

Simple Squamous

Simple Cuboidal
A simple cuboidal epithelium is composed of a
single layer of cells whose height, width and
depth are the same (they are not strictly
In histologic section, such cells usually have a
centrally placed nucleus

Simple Cuboidal
Typical locations:
Small ducts of exocrine glands
Surface of ovary (germinal epithelium)
Kidney tubules
Thyroid follicles
Major functions:

Simple Cuboidal

Simple Cuboidal

Simple Columnar
Composed of cells whose height is two or
three times greater than their width
The nuclei of columnar cells are basal and
arranged in an ordered layer

Simple Columnar
Typical locations:
Small intestine and colon
Stomach lining and gastric glands
Major functions:
Absorption and secretion

Simple Columnar

Stratified Squamous
Composed of several layers such that cells high
up in the epithelium are not in contact with the
underlying extracellular matrix
Stratified squamous epithelium derives its name
from the flattened (squamous) appearance of
cells in the superficial part of the epithelium
Cells in the basal and middle layers of this type of
epithelium are in fact pyramidal or polygonal and
are not flattened

Stratified Squamous
Typical locations:
Oral cavity and esophagus
Major functions:

Stratified Squamous

Stratified Cuboidal
Typical locations:
Sweat gland ducts
Large ducts of exocrine glands
Anorectal junction
Major function:

Stratified Cuboidal

Glandular Epithelium
Glands are epithelial tissue derivative
specialized for secreting
Glands are formed during embryonic
development by pockets of epithelial tissue
that invaginate and develop secretory
There are two categories of glands: exocrine
and endocrine

During development, if the connecting cells

between the epithelial surface cells and
secretory gland cells within the invaginated
pocket remain intact as a duct between gland
and the surface, an exocrine gland is formed
E.g. sweat glands and glands that secrete
digestive juices

If the connecting cells disappear during

development and the secretory gland cells are
isolated from the surface, an endocrine gland
is formed
Endocrine glands lack ducts and release their
secretory products (hormones) internally into
the blood
E.g. the pancreas secretes insulin into the
blood, which transports this hormone to its
sites of action throughout the body

Classification of Glands
Glands can be classified according to:
Their histologic organization
Possession of ducts
Type of material secreted
Manner in which material is secreted
Glands that consist of only a single cell are
called unicellular; aggregates of secreting cells
form multicellular glands

Unicellular Glands
Unicellular, exocrine gland goblet cell
Found scattered among epithelial cell lining
the trachea, small intestine and colon
The cell has a narrow base and an expanded
apex filled with secretory granules
Goblet cells elaborate mucin, which, on
hydration, produces viscous lubricating fluid
called mucus

The mucin is secreted onto an epithelial

Hence, a goblet cell is classified as unicellular
exocrine gland
Unicellular endocrine glands also occur
They are numerous in the epithelium lining
the gastrointestinal tract and produce a
number of peptide hormones and/or amines

They are also found in the epithelium lining

the respiratory system
These cells secrete into the extracellular space
the product of which may enter adjacent

Multicellular Glands
The simplest form of multicellular exocrine
gland is the secretory sheet, exemplified by the
gastric lining epithelium, in which the secreting
cells form a continuous epithelial layer
Intraepithelial glands are small clusters of
secretory cells that lie wholly within an
epithelial sheet, clustered about a small lumen
Cells of both types of gland secrete their
product onto the epithelial surface

Complex Exocrine Glands

Exocrine glands secrete onto a luminal
epithelial surface either directly, as in
secretory sheets and intraepithelial glands, or
by a ductal system
If the duct system of complex glands
branches, the gland is said to be compound
If the duct system does not branch, the gland
is classified as simple

The secretory cells may be organized into

tubules, acini or alveoli
Simple and compound glands can be named
by the shape of the secretory portion
Simple glands can be classified as simple
tubular, simple coiled tubular, simple
branched tubular or simple branched acinar

Compound glands are subdivided into

compound tubular, compound accinar and
compound tubuloacinar
* The epithelial cells forming the closely packed
tubular structures of complex glands remain
arranged as a single layer of cell despite the
complex appearance of the overall glandular