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4.2B: Types of Epithelial Tissue

  • Page ID
    7355
  • Epithelial tissue is classified by cell shape and the number of cell layers.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Classify epithelial tissue by cell shape and layers

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • There are three principal cell shapes associated with epithelial cells: squamous epithelium, cuboidal epithelium, and columnar epithelium.
    • There are three ways of describing the layering of epithelium: simple, stratified, and pseudostratified.
    • Pseudostratified epithelium possesses fine hair-like extensions called cilia and unicellular glands called goblet cells that secrete mucus. This epithelium is described as ciliated pseudostratified epithelium.
    • Stratified epithelium differs from simple epithelium in that it is multilayered. It is therefore found where body linings have to withstand mechanical or chemical insult.
    • In keratinized epithelia, the most apical layers (exterior) of cells are dead and and contain a tough, resistant protein called keratin. An example of this is found in mammalian skin that makes the epithelium waterproof.
    • Transitional epithelia are found in tissues such as the urinary bladder where there is a change in the shape of the cell due to stretching.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • simple columnar: A columnar epithelium that is uni-layered.
    • pseudostratified epithelium: A type of epithelium that, though comprising only a single layer of cells, has its cell nuclei positioned in a manner suggestive of stratified epithelia.
    • squamous: Flattened and scale-like.
    • cuboidal: Resembling a cube.
    • Keratinized: To produce or become like keratin.
    • columnar: Having the shape of a column.

    Most epithelial tissue is described with two names. The first name describes the number of cell layers present and the second describes the shape of the cells. For example, simple squamous epithelial tissue describes a single layer of cells that are flat and scale-like in shape.

    This illustration shows the three principal classifications associated with epithelial cells. Squamous epithelium has cells that are wider than they are tall. Cuboidal epithelium has cells whose height and width are approximately the same. Columnar epithelium has cells taller than they are wide. There are pictures of each of these types of epithelium: simple squamous, simple cuboidal, simple columnar, stratified squamous, stratified cuboidal, pseudostratifed columnar, and transitional.

    Epithelial Tissue: There are three principal classifications associated with epithelial cells. Squamous epithelium has cells that are wider than they are tall. Cuboidal epithelium has cells whose height and width are approximately the same. Columnar epithelium has cells taller than they are wide.

     

    Simple Epithelia

     

    Simple epithelium consists of a single layer of cells. They are typically where absorption, secretion  and filtration occur. The thinness of the epithelial barrier facilitates these processes.

    Simple epithelial tissues are generally classified by the shape of their cells. The four major classes of simple epithelium are: 1) simple squamous; 2) simple cuboidal; 3) simple columnar; and 4) pseudostratified.

     

    Simple Squamous

     

    Simple squamous epithelium cells are flat in shape and arranged in a single layer. This single layer is thin enough to form a membrane that compounds can move through via passive diffusion. This epithelial type is found in the walls of capillaries, linings of the pericardium, and the linings of the alveoli of the lungs.

     

    Simple Cuboidal

     

    Simple cuboidal epithelium consists of a single layer cells that are as tall as they are wide. The important functions of the simple cuboidal epithelium are secretion and absorption. This epithelial type is found in the small collecting ducts of the kidneys, pancreas, and salivary glands.

     

    Simple Columnar

     

    Simple columnar epithelium is a single row of tall, closely packed cells, aligned in a row. These cells are found in areas with high secretory function (such as the wall of the stomach), or absorptive areas (as in small intestine ). They possess cellular extensions (e.g., microvilli in the small intestine, or the cilia found almost exclusively in the female reproductive tract).

     

    Pseudostratified

     

    These are simple columnar epithelial cells whose nuclei appear at different heights, giving the misleading (hence pseudo) impression that the epithelium is stratified when the cells are viewed in cross section.

    Pseudostratified epithelium can also possess fine hair-like extensions of their apical (luminal) membrane called cilia. In this case, the epithelium is described as ciliated pseudostratified epithelium. Ciliated epithelium is found in the airways (nose, bronchi), but is also found in the uterus and fallopian tubes of females, where the cilia propel the ovum to the uterus.

     

    Stratified Epithelium

     

    Stratified epithelium differs from simple epithelium by being multilayered. It is therefore found where body linings have to withstand mechanical or chemical insults.

    Stratified epithelia are more durable and protection is one their major functions. Since stratified epithelium consists of two or more layers, the basal cells divide and push towards the apex, and in the process flatten the apical cells.

    Stratified epithelia can be columnar, cuboidal, or squamous type. However, it can also have the following specializations:

     

    Keratinized Epithelia

     

    In keratinized epithelia, the most apical layers (exterior) of cells are dead and lose their nucleus and cytoplasm. They contain a tough, resistant protein called keratin. This specialization makes the epithelium waterproof, and it is abundant in mammalian skin. The lining of the esophagus is an example of a non-keratinized or moist stratified epithelium.

     

    Transitional Epithelia

     

    Transitional epithelia are found in tissues that stretch and it can appear to be stratified cuboidal when the tissue is not stretched, or stratified squamous when the organ is distended and the tissue stretches. It is sometimes called the urothelium since it is almost exclusively found in the bladder, ureters, and urethra.

     

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