Encyclopedia of Cancer

Living Edition
| Editors: Manfred Schwab


  • Isabelle Gross
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27841-9_7181-4


The epithelium is one of the basic tissue types. It lines the cavities or covers surfaces of structures throughout the body and also forms many glands. Functions of epithelial cells include protection, secretion, selective absorption, transcellular transport, and detection of sensation.

Epithelia are classified by the morphology of their cells (columnar, squamous, cuboidal, or transitional) and the number of layers they are composed of (simple, stratified). They have the following structural and functional characteristics:
  • Epithelia form continuous sheets of cells densely packed together through the presence of numerous specialized intercellular junctions. Tight junctions are specific to epithelia and contribute to their barrier function. Desmosomal and adherens junctions ensure mechanic stability through connections with cytokeratin intermediate filaments specific to epithelia and actin microfilaments of the cytoskeleton.

  • Epithelia rest on a basement membrane called the...

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See Also

  1. (2012) Epithelial cell. In: Schwab M (ed) Encyclopedia of cancer, 3rd edn. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 1291–1292. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-16483-5_1958Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INSERM U1113Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance