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4.3A: Characteristics of Connective Tissue

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    7357
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    Connective tissue is incredibly diverse and contributes to energy storage, the protection of organs, and the body’s structural integrity.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Describe the main characteristics and functions of connective tissue

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Connective tissue is the most abundant and widely distributed of the primary tissues.
    • Connective tissue has three main components: cells, fibers, and ground substance. Together the ground substance and fibers make up the extracellular matrix.
    • Connective tissue is classified into two subtypes: soft and specialized connective tissue.
    • Major functions of connective tissue include: 1) binding and supporting, 2) protecting, 3) insulating, 4) storing reserve fuel, and 5) transporting substances within the body.
    • Connective tissues can have various levels of vascularity. Cartilage is avascular, while dense connective tissue is poorly vascularized. Others, such as bone, are richly supplied with blood vessels.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • extracellular matrix: Cells of the connective tissue are suspended in a non-cellular matrix that provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.
    • fibroblast: A type of cell found in connective tissue that synthesizes the extracellular matrix and collagen.
    • connective tissue: A type of tissue found in animals whose main function is to bind, support, and anchor the body.

    Connective tissue (CT) is a one of the four main classes of tissues. Although it is the most abundant and widely distributed of the primary tissues, the amount of connective tissue in a particular organ varies. Like to the timber framing of a house, the connective tissue provides structure and support throughout the body.

     

    Structure of Connective Tissue

     

    Connective tissue has three main components:

    1. Ground substance
    2. Fibers
    3. Cells

    Together the ground substance and fibers make up the extracellular matrix. The composition of these three elements vary tremendously from one organ to the other. This offers great diversity in the types of connective tissue.

    This is a drawing of the structural elements of connective tissue. It depicts cells suspended in a ground substance or matrix, with elastic and collagen fibers running throughout the matrix. CT is classified into two subtypes: soft CT and specialized CT. The soft CT subtype—loose, dense, and elastic tissues—are found in parts of our skin, tendons and blood vessels. The special CT subtype includes cartilage, bone, adipose tissue, blood, and lymphatic tissue, and provides a structural framework for the body and connects body tissues.

    Structural elements of connective tissue: Connective tissues consist of three parts: cells suspended in a ground substance or matrix; and most have fibers running through it.

    Ground substance is a clear, colorless, viscous fluid that fills the space between the cells and fibers. It is composed of proteoglycans and cell adhesion proteins that allow the connective tissue to act as glue for the cells to attach to the matrix. The ground substance functions as a molecular sieve for substances to travel between blood capillaries and cells.

    Connective tissue fibers provide support. Three types of fibers are found in connective tissue:

    1. Collagen
    2. Elastic fibers
    3. Reticular fibers

     

    Collagen Fibers

     

    This is a black and white x-ray of collagen fibers, the strongest and most abundant of all the connective tissue fibers.

    Collagen: Collagen fibers are the strongest and most abundant of all the connective tissue fibers.

    Collagen fibers are fibrous proteins and are secreted into the extracellular space and they provide high tensile strength to the matrix.

     

    Elastic Fibers

     

    Elastic fibers are long, thin fibers that form branching network in the extracellular matrix. They help the connective tissue to stretch and recoil.

     

    Reticular Fibers

     

    Reticular fibers are short, fine collagenous fibers that can branch extensively to form a delicate network.

     

    Function of Connective Tissue

     

    The major functions of connective tissue include:

    1. Binding and supporting.
    2. Protecting.
    3. Insulating.
    4. Storing reserve fuel.
    5. Transporting substances within the body.