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Florence Lau (21)

Anatomy and Histology of Skin

Protection against injury, bacterial invasion, and desiccation
Regulation of body temperature
Reception of continual sensations from environment
Excretion from sweat glands
Absorption of chemicals
Absorption of UV radiation from sun for vitamin D synthesis
Overview of structure
o Appendages: local specializations of the epidermis (hair, nails, sweat, sebaceous
o Epidermis: stratified squamous epithelium derived from ectoderm; lacks blood vessels;
nutrients from vessels in underlying dermis via diffusion
Epidermal ridges: ridge like extensions projecting into underlying dermis
formed by epidermis
o Dermis: dense, irregular collagen connective tissue derived from mesoderm
Dermal papillae: complementary projections of dermis between epidermal
ridges and dermis
o Hypodermis: superficial fascia; loose connective tissue containing varying amounts of
fat (not part of the skin)
Thickness: describes the thickness of epidermis



Thick skin
400-600 m
Palms and soles
5 layers:
Stratum corneum
Stratum lucidum
Stratum granulosum
Stratum spinosum
Stratum basale
Sweat glands

Histology of epidermis
5 layers differentiated by keratinocytes

Thin Skin
75-150 m
Everywhere else
3-4 layers:
Thin stratum corneum
Lacks stratum lucidum
Lacks definite stratum granulosum
Stratum spinosum
Stratum basale
Sweat glands
Sebaceous glands
Arrector pili muscles
Hair follicles

Florence Lau (21)

Stratum basale
Supported by basal lamina
Most mitotic activity (happens during night)
Shape: single layer of mitotically active, cuboidal to low columnar-shaped cells
following the contour of ridges and papillae
Organelles and nuclei: basophilic cytoplasm and large nuclei
Attachments: anchored to basement membrane by hemidemosomes, many
desmosomes attach stratum basale cells to each other and cells of stratum
Composition: numerous tonofilaments
Cells other than keratinocytes: melanocytes and Merkel cells
Stratum spinosum
Thickest layer of epidermis
Mitotically active keratinocytes like those of stratum basale
Prickle cells: cells shrink and pull apart except at desmosomes forming short
spiny projections between adjacent cells
Shape: polyhedral (inner layers) to flattened (outermost) cells
Attachments: closely applied to each other and joined by numerous
Organelles and nuclei: same organelles as stratum basale
More tonofilaments produced formation of tonofibrils (bundles of
tonofilaments) representing cytokeratin cytoplasm becomes
Contains membrane-coating granules
Cells other than keratinocytes: Langerhans cells
Stratum granulosum
Shape: 3-5 layers of flattened cells that are parallel to skin surface
Attachments: less distinct between adjacent cells
More membrane-coating granules
Has keratohyalin granules (amorphous, densely packed particles)
o Contents of granules released by exocytosis forms lipid-rich
substance over plasma membrane
Skin becomes hydrophobic
Prevents cells superficial from this region to receive
nutrients cell death

Florence Lau (21)

Stratum lucidum
Clear, homogenous, lightly staining thin layer of cells
Present only in thick skin
Organelles and nuclei: lacks nuclei and few remnants of organelles
Plasmalemma: thickening of plasmalemma
Composition: aggregates of keratin (protein linked by hydrogen + disulfide
bonds) filaments with more regular arrangement; oriented parallel to skin
surface and eleidin (product of keratohyalin granule)
o Stratum corneum
Most superficial
Shape: numerous layers of flattened, keratinized cells (squames)
Organelles and nuclei: lacks nuclei and organelles
Plasmalemma: thickened plasmalemma
Numerous keratin filaments embedded in amorphous matrix
Squames connected by corneodesmosomes surrounded by nonpolar
lipids (cholesterol, ceramides, fatty acids) via covalent linkages
Consists of soft keratin and hard keratin
Soft keratin: somewhat more elastic than hard keratin
Hard keratin (stratum disjunctum): desquamated (constantly shed) and
lacks desmosomes; outermost layer
Basal lamina


Separates the dermis from the epidermis; under stratum basale

Consists of a mixture of collagens, laminin, perlecan, entactin
Helps to attach and anchor the cells to the underlying connective tissue
Proteins (integrins and proteglycans) in cell membranes attach to proteins in
basal lamina
3 distinct layers
Lamina lucida - electron lucent (harbor hemidesmosomes)
Lamina densa - electron dense (type IV collagen, anchoring type VII collagen
fibrils, dermal microfibrils)
Lamina reticularis - associated with reticular fibers of underlying connective
(type III collagen)

Florence Lau (21)

Cells in epidermis

Largest population
Continually shredded from surface of epidermis and renewed through mitotic
Process of renewal of keratinocytes (20-30 days)
Separates skin into 5 layers through cytomorphosis of keratinocytes
Interspersed among keratinocytes in stratum basale
May also reside in superficial portions of dermis and extend processes between
Produce melanin (brown pigment); responsible for pigmentation of skin
Synthesized by melanocytes located in melanosomes within cytoplasm
of melanocytes
Functioning of epidermal-melanin unit: combination of melanocytes and
1. Tyrosine transported into melanosomes converted by tyrosinase into
2. Melanosomes containing melanin transferred via melanocyte dendritic
processes to cytoplasm of keratinocytes via cytocrine secretion
a. Melanosomes move to tip of melanocyte processes
b. Melanosomes pinched off by keratinocytes and incorporated
into keratinocyte cytoplasm
Merkel cells (tactile cell)
Interspersed among keratinocytes in stratum basale
Especially abundant in fingertips
Found as single cells orientated parallel to basal lamina but sometimes extend
processes between keratinocytes
Deeply indented nuclei, prominent Golgi apparatuses, and numerous densecored vesicles
May act as mechanoreceptors
Unmyelinated sensory nerves traverse basal lamina approximate
Merkel cells to form Merkel cell-neurite complexes
Langerhans cells (epidermal dendritic cell)
Interspersed among keratinocytes primarily in stratum spinosum
May also be found in the dermis
Darkly stained cells with dense polymorphous nucleus, pale cytoplasm, and
long slender processes that radiate from cell body into intercellular spaces
between keratinocytes
Has Birbeck granules (membrane-bound granules)
Responsible for immune response
Has Fc (antibody) and C3 (complement) receptors phagocytose and
process foreign antigens
Presents processed antigens to T cells in lymph nodes in vicinity

Florence Lau (21)


Composed of dense, irregular collagenous connective tissue; mostly type I collagen fibers and
networks of elastic fibers supporting epidermis and binds skin to hypodermis
Thicker on dorsal surface than ventral surface; thicker in men than women
2 layers
o Epidermis-dermis interface
Dermatoglyphics: patterns created by primary epidermal ridges (arches,
whorls, loops); forms fingerprints and patterns on toes
Primary dermal ridges overlie primary epidermal ridges
Primary dermal ridge subdivided into 2 secondary dermal ridges by
interpapillary peg (epidermal downgrowth)
Dermal papillae (dermis inserts into epidermis)
Small, conical projections with rounded apices that project from
secondary dermal ridges into epidermis
Especially prominent on palmar surface of hands and fingers
o Closely aggregated and arranged in parallel lines corresponding
to primary epidermal ridges
Possesses many capillary loops extending into epidermis-dermis
interface that regulate body temperature and nourishes cells of
o Meissner corpuscle: sensitive to tactile stimulation
o Krause end bulb: sensitive to cold (though current research still
o Papillary layer
Anchoring fibrils (type VII collagen) extend from basal lamina into papillary
layer from epidermis to dermis
Composed of loose connective tissue with thin type III collagen fibers and
elastic fibers arranged in loose networks
Contains fibroblasts, macrophages, mast cells, and other cells common to
connective tissue

Florence Lau (21)

Reticular layer
Dense, irregular collagenous connective tissue with thick type I collagen fibers
closely packed into large bundles mostly parallel to skin surface
Networks of thick elastic fibers intermingled with collagen fibers appearing
especially abundant near sebaceous and sweat glands
Contains fibroblasts, mast cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, and fat cells
(more sparse than papillary layer)
Contains sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles derived from
Has smooth muscle cells in deeper regions to wrinkle skin e.g. in penis,
scrotum, areola around nipples
Arrector pili muscles: smooth muscles inserted into hair follicles that erect
hairs when body is cold giving goose bumps
Muscles of facial expression insert into dermis from superficial fascia
Pacinian corpuscles: sensitive to pressure and vibrations
Ruffini corpuscles: sensitive to tensional forces; abundant in dermis of
soles of feet

Appendages of skin
o Modification of stratum corneum at distal
phalanx of finger
o Consists of several layers of flattened
cells with shrunken, degenerate nuclei
o Composed of hard keratin (higher sulfur
o Appears pink due to underlying capillary
bed (very vascular longitudinal ridges in
underlying dermis)
o Composed of a nail plate (visible body
made of heavily compacted, highly
keratinized epithelial cells) and a root
(proximal part implanted into groove in
skin that is less vascular)
o Nail bed: consists of prickle cells and
stratum basale resting on basement
membrane; thin and not responsible for
nail growth except for nail matrix
o Nail matrix: thick and actively
proliferative nail bed beneath root and
lunule responsible for nail growth
o Lunule: opaque crescentic area near root
representing region of nail formation
o Nail folds (proximal + lateral): fold of skin continuing along lateral borders to overlap
root (proximal) and lateral borders
o Eponychium: thin cuticular fold formed by extension of stratum corneum of proximal
nail fold onto upper surface of nail root and surface of nail plate
o Hyponychium: skin attached to underside of nail at the free border of nail

Florence Lau (21)

Hair follicle
o Invaginations of epidermis invading dermis and/or hypodermis
o Surrounded by dense accumulations of fibrous connective tissues belonging to dermis
o Hair bulb: hair root and glassy membrane
o Glassy membrane: thickened basal lamina separates dermis from epithelium of hair
o Hair root: expanded terminus of hair follicle that is indented to conform to shape of
dermal papilla
o Dermal papilla has rich supply of capillaries that nourish cells of hair follicle
o Matrix: bulk of cells that compose hair root
o Arrector pili muscles: attached to connective tissue sheath surrounding hair follicles
and papillary layer of dermis
o External root sheath: outer layers of follicular epithelium composed of single layer at
hair bulb and several layers near surface of skin
o Internal root sheath
Henles layer: outer single row of cuboidal cells which contacts innermost layer
of cells of external root sheath and contains keratin filaments
Huxleys layer: 1-2 layers of flattened cells containing trichohyalin granules
Cuticle of internal root sheath: overlapping scale-like cells which free ends
project towards base of hair follicle; ends where duct of sebaceous glands
attaches to hair follicle

Florence Lau (21)


Filamentous, keratinized structures that project from epidermal surface of skin

Composed of hard keratin
Grows over most of the body
Consists of a root (projects from bulb) and hair shaft
Two types: vellus hairs (soft, fine, short, and pale) and terminal hairs (dark hairs)
Hair shaft: long slender filament extending to and through surface of epidermis
Medulla: flattened, cornified polyhedral cells with pyknotic/missing nuclei; only
present in thick hair
Cortex: bulk of hair composed of several layers of intensely cornified,
elongated cells tightly compacted together; pigment of colored hair mostly
found in cortex due to melanocytes (age lose ability to produce tyrosinase
less production of melanin gray hair)
Cuticle: outermost layer; consists of a single layer of clear, flattened,
squamous cells that overlap each other
o Root: embedded in skin; expands at lower end to form hair bulb
Sebaceous glands lobular glands with clusters of acini opening into single short ducts
o Holocrine gland: excretion by rupturing of
plasma membrane (cell destruction)
o Especially numerous in scalp, face, around
anus, mouth and nose; absent from palms of
hands and soles of feet
o Appendages of hair follicles
o Short duct: lined by stratified squamous
epithelium that is a continuation of outer
epithelial root sheath of hair follicle where
sebum is discharged
o Does not contain myoepithelial cells
o Secretory alveoli: lie within dermis; composed
of epithelial cells enclosed in well-defined
basement membrane supported by thin
connective tissue capsule
Cells at basement membrane: small
and cuboidal with round nuclei
Central region of acinus: filled with
cells in different stages of degeneration
Secretes sebum: wax-like mixture of
cholesterol and triglycerides for
maintaining skin texture and hair

Florence Lau (21)

Sweat glands

Eccrine sweat glands simple coiled tubular glands deep in the dermis/in underlying
Merocrine gland: excretion by exocytosis
Innervated by cholinergic fibers; regulated by sympathetic nervous system
Located in skin throughout most of the body
Myoepithelial cells: surround secretory portion; contractions assist expressing
Secretory duct: slender, coiled duct that is composed of simple cuboidal to
lower columnar epithelium made of dark (mucus secretion) and clear (watery
secretion) cells; enveloped by keratinocytes along its way to sweat pore
Cells of basal layer: large, heterochromatic nucleus and abundant
Cells of luminal layer: irregularly shaped nucleus with little cytoplasm
and few organelles
Fluid secreted similar to blood plasma but most potassium, sodium, and
chloride ions are resorbed by cells of duct
Apocrine sweat glands enlarged, modified coiled and tubular eccrine glands
Found in axilla, areola of nipple, and anal region
Embedded in deep portions of dermis and hypodermis
Ducts open into canals of hair follicles superficial to entry of sebaceous gland
Secretory cells: simple cuboidal and low columnar
Lumen: filled with secretory product and squamous cells; larger than eccrine
glands with secretory cells with granules
Secretory product: odorless and viscous upon secretion but presents distinctive
odor after metabolized by bacteria
Larger myoepithelial cells and assist secretion
Controlled by hormones and does not begin until puberty
Innervated by adrenergic nerves

Dermal absorption of chemicals

Transepidermal absorption: diffusion through lipophilic stratum corneum (rate-limiting barrier)
o Transcellular absorption: transferred through squames by partitioning into cell
o Intercellular absorption: transferred around squames in lipid-rich areas

Florence Lau (21)

Appendageal absorption (insignificant for most of body due to small surface area of
appendages): bypasses squames and enter shunts provided by hair follicles, sweat glands,
and sebaceous glands
Diffusion of chemical into aqueous environment (epidermis and dermis) resportion of
chemicals into cutaneous blood and lymphatic system