Foundations - Histology Epithelia and Skin

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Histology terminology cartoon

Background and Self-directed Learning for Medicine Foundations.

Practical - Histology Epithelia and Skin Virtual Slides by Patrick de Permentier.

This current page content is not part of the Foundations practical class.

Links: Histology Introduction | Histology Epithelia and Skin | Histology Stains | Histology Drawings



  • Obtain an understanding of the histological appearance of various types of epithelia based on their cellular shape and number of layers.
  • To examine the histological appearance of 2 other unique types of epithelia namely pseudostratified and transitional.
  • To demonstrate some sites where the types of epithelia can be located
  • To demonstrate certain epithelial specialisations such as microvilli and cilia.
  • Relate the morphology of the epithelia to their various functions.


  • To know the microscopic structure of the skin e.g. epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.
  • To know the histological differences between hairy (thin) and glabrous (thick) skin.
  • To know the histology of associated structures e.g. eccrine and apocrine sweat glands,

sebaceous glands, and hair.

  • To know the histological features of some sensory receptors namely: Pacinian and Meissner



Epithelium forms continuous layers of cells that cover surfaces and line cavities of the body.

Epithelium histology cartoon 01.jpg Epithelium histology cartoon 02.jpg
Epithelia cell shape Epithelia sectioning appearance

Epithelia Classification

  1. The number of cell layers: a single layer = simple epithelium; epithelia composed of more than one layer = stratified epithelia.
  2. The shape of the component cells when seen in sections taken at right angles to the epithelial surface: the shape may be squamous (flattened), cuboidal (about equal dimensions), or columnar (taller than it is wide).
  3. The presence of surface specializations e.g. cilia, microvilli and keratin.

Simple Epithelium

Simple Squamous

Virtual slides: Distributing artery and vein and Aorta

Simple Cuboidal

Virtual slides: Thyroid gland and Kidney

Simple Columnar

Virtual slides: Fallopian tube-isthmus and Duodenum

Stratified Epithelium

Stratified Squamous Non-Keratinising

Virtual slides: Tongue-Foliate papillae and Cervix of uterus/vaginal canal

Stratified Squamous Keratinising

Virtual slide: Skin

Stratified Cuboidal / Stratified Columnar

Virtual slides: Skin and Submandibular Gland

Pseudostratified Columnar

This type is categorized as simple because all the epithelial cells make contact with the basement membrane, but not all cells reach the surface of the epithelium.

Virtual slides: Epididymis and Trachea


Located only in the urinary system, this epithelium is composed of 5 or more cell layers. Those located basally are either low columnar or cuboidal.

Virtual slides: Urinary bladder (relaxed) and Urinary bladder (partly distended)


Virtual slide: Thick skin (human palm).

Virtual slides: Thin skin (human scalp LS and TS) and Skin (axillary, human)

Integument Histology Links: Adult Skin | Epidermis and Dermis | Thin Skin Epidermis | Thick Skin Epidermis | Elastic Fibres | Basal Cell Melanin | Foundations Practical Support | Integumentary System Development | Histology Stains


  • columnar - cells are longer than they are wide.
  • cuboidal - cells are about the same length and width.
  • cutis - alternative term for the epidermis and the dermis layers of the skin.
  • dermis - connective tissue middle layer of the skin.
  • epidermis - epithelial outer layer of the skin.
  • hypodermis - connective tissue inner layer of the skin.
  • simple - consisting of a single cell layer.
  • squamous - flattened.
  • stratified - consisting of several cell layers.
  • thick skin - refers to the skin histology found on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. Note that this is used as a histological term not a measurement of overall skin thickness.
  • thin skin - refers to the skin histology found on skin in all other regions beside palms and soles.

External Links

External Links Notice - The dynamic nature of the internet may mean that some of these listed links may no longer function. If the link no longer works search the web with the link text or name. Links to any external commercial sites are provided for information purposes only and should never be considered an endorsement. UNSW Embryology is provided as an educational resource with no clinical information or commercial affiliation.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, December 5) Embryology Foundations - Histology Epithelia and Skin. Retrieved from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2019, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G