Simple Squamous Epithelium: Definition, and Examples

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Simple Squamous Epithelium Definition

A single layer of epithelial cells makes up simple squamous epithelium, also known as simple squamous epithelial tissue or pavement epithelium. Pavement epithelium is named after the fact that it resembles tiles or bricks.

The basement membrane, which separates the epithelial tissue from the underlying connective tissue, is in direct contact with the epithelial tissue. This basement membrane functions as a glue, pinning epithelial tissue to underlying structures.

What is Simple Squamous Epithelium?

Epithelial cells are sheets of cells that line virtually all of the body’s surfaces. They are categorised histologically according to the form of the cells they are made up of and can be defined as simple (single layer) or compound/stratified (many layers). It might be squamous (like a scale), cuboidal (like a cube), or columnar (column-like).

Simple squamous epithelium is almost like a simple epithelium that lines the outer layer of the skin, the endothelium, and the secretory sections of small glands and is made up of squamous epithelial cells. It also lines the glomeruli of the kidney and the alveoli of the lungs, where passive diffusion takes place. Simple squamous epithelial tissue and pavement epithelium are synonyms.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Characteristics

A simple squamous epithelium is a squamous epithelial cell-based epithelium. Flat squamous epithelial cells with an oblong nucleus and a scale-like appearance are characteristics of squamous epithelial cells. When viewed from above, the cells are broader than they are tall and seem hexagonal.

The tissue is polarised, with one face facing the outside world and the other facing the basement membrane. This kind of epithelium has a smooth, low-friction surface that allows fluids to flow freely across it. Small molecules can flow across the membrane via diffusion or filtration since it is permeable.

Because blood vessels are not in direct touch with epithelial cells, they must rely on diffusion to obtain all of their nutrients, such as oxygen and metabolites. As a result, the basement membrane plays a crucial function in allowing important nutrients to diffuse through it and into the basic squamous epithelium. Integrins are receptors on the cell membrane of epithelial cells that allow them to interact with the basement membrane.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Structure

A single, flat layer of cells makes up the simple squamous epithelium. Due of the pressure, the cells are densely packed together, resulting in a polygonal configuration. The cells are coiled up into tubes, similar to blood capillaries in the vascular system, which allow nutrients and waste to be exchanged.

The basal lamina and the reticular lamina make up the basement membrane beneath simple squamous cells. The basal lamina is made up of glycoproteins and collagen and serves as the epithelium’s attachment point. The reticular lamina, which is secreted by the connective tissue layer below, is connected to the basal lamina.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Function

The major functions of the basic squamous tissue are secretion and absorption. They allow tiny molecules to flow readily across the membrane due to their thin and simple structure. Oxygen and carbon dioxide, for example, diffuse across the membrane in a concentration gradient.

They also have transmembrane protein channels, which enable certain chemicals to pass across the cell membrane. Because of the variety of these transmembrane channels, basic squamous tissue can be differentiated to fulfil diverse functions depending on its location in the body.

It’s also worth mentioning that epithelial cells are often found on the exterior of tissues, adjacent to a lumen or “inner space.” This provides it the extra benefit of shielding the underlying tissue from the elements.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Location

Simple squamous epithelium can be found in a variety of places. They can be found all over the body, including lining the glomerulus and bowman’s capsules in the kidney and on the inner surface of lymphatic and blood arteries.

They envelope the pericardial, peritoneal, and pleural cavities, as well as the alveoli of the lungs, permitting gases to diffuse. They also cover the reproductive cavities of both men and women. The mesothelium is a group of simple squamous epithelial cells that line the bodily cavities, reproductive organs, and heart.

The squamous epithelium that coats the inner surface of blood arteries and lymphatic vessels is referred to as endothelium. The anatomy and functions of the mesothelium and endothelium are discussed in greater depth further below.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Examples

Kidney: Blood is filtered between the glomerular capillaries’ squamous epithelial cells and the bowman’s capsule’s squamous epithelial cells. The secretion, absorption, and reabsorption that happens between these cells results in urine.

Lungs: The simple squamous epithelium that lines the alveoli of the lungs facilitates gas exchange between the alveoli and blood vessels while simultaneously acting as a barrier between external and internal bodily fluids.


All coelomic organs have Mesothelium on their surface (body cavity). Xavier Bichart was the first to characterise mesothelial cells in 1827. Minot coined the name mesothelium after researching these cells in depth in 1890.

The mesoderm, one of three major germ layers in early embryonic development, gives rise to mesothelial cells. The ectoderm, or “outside layer,” and the endoderm, or “inner layer,” are the other two layers. The mesothelium is made up of three layers.

The submesothelial connective tissue, which comprises fibroblasts, blood and lymph vessels, inflammatory cells, collagen, and adipose tissue, as well as nerve bundles, is constructed by a monolayer of mesothelial cells, followed by the basement membrane.

Microvilli can also be seen on the surface of mesothelial cells. These are non-moving projections that aid in increasing surface area and nutrient absorption. The glycocalyx, which is made up of glycosaminoglycans, is secreted by the microvilli (GAGs).

By adhering to fluid and assisting absorption, this lubricant helps to prevent fluid loss. It has also been shown to defend against infection and tumour growth.

Tight junctions, gap junctions, and desmosomes form strong cell-cell connections between mesothelial cells. Tight connections facilitate diffusion while maintaining polarity on the cell surface.

Adherin junctions serve both structural and adhesive functions. Gap junctions have a cluster of channels that allow molecules in solution to move from one cell to the next. Finally, desmosomes function as an attaching place, which helps to retain the tissue structure’s integrity.

In the pleural cavity, there are different sorts of mesothelium. The parietal pleura covers the cavity walls, whereas the visceral pleura covers the surface of the lungs. On the other side, the cardiac mesothelium is linked to the heart. The parietal pericardium is the part of the pericardium that covers the pericardial cavity.

The epicardium is the visceral (interior) mesothelium on the heart’s surface. Finally, on the visceral layer of the peritoneum, the serosal mesothelium may be found in the gut. Inflammation of the mesothelium can occur.

Mesothelial cells have the ability to multiply and produce inflammatory mediators like cytokines and prostaglandins. The cancer of the mesothelium, malignant mesothelioma, occurs when the mesothelium becomes aberrant.

They are classified as malignant because the cells have the ability to spread to other tissues and areas of the body (Metastasize). Asbestos exposure is linked to this form of cancer.

This illness causes inflammation by accumulating fluid between the layers of the mesothelium. This emphasises the role of mesothelial cells in inflammation regulation.


Endothelial cells regulate the migration of white blood cells and the flow of materials. The endothelium is considered to serve a variety of purposes. Blood fluidity, vascular tone, platelet aggregation, and inflammatory control are among them.

It’s also crucial for the endocrine system and metabolism. Furthermore, endothelial cells can grow out of existing blood arteries to form new ones. Angiogenesis is the process of forming new tubes.

The endothelium plays a key role in vascular homeostasis, or the control of vascular damage and healing. The three layers of blood vessels can be characterised as follows: The tunica intima, which is a single layer of endothelial cells, and the tunica medium, which is made up of vascular smooth muscle cells, are the first and second layers, respectively.

The tunica externa is the third layer, which incorporates connective tissue including fibroblasts, mesenchymal stem cells, lymph arteries, and nerve bundles. Due to the increased pressure of blood flowing through arteries, a thicker tunica media layer is formed.

However, in smaller capillaries, only a tunica intima layer with a basement membrane and pericytes, which assist in controlling blood flow, is discovered. 

Types of Simple Epithelium

Simple epithelial tissue is divided into four kinds. Simple squamous epithelium, simple cuboidal epithelium, simple columnar epithelium, and pseudostratified epithelium are the different types of epithelium. The number of layers of epithelial tissue is defined by the first term, while the form is described by the second.

As a result, the term “simple squamous” refers to a single layer of flattened cells. The text below highlight the key features of each form of simple epithelium.

Simple squamous epithelium: Simple squamous epithelial cells are thin and flat, allowing molecules to flow through through diffusion. This cell type may be found in capillary walls, pericardium linings, and alveoli.

Simple cuboidal epithelium: Simple cuboidal epithelial cells, on the other hand, are cuboidal-shaped cells that are tall. They play a role in secretion as well as absorption. These cells can be found in the kidneys’ collecting ducts, the salivary glands, and the pancreas.

Simple columnar epithelium: Simple columnar epithelial cells are tall cells that are densely packed. They can be found in the stomach lining and the small intestine. They’re also located in the female reproductive tract’s lining. They may include microvilli (as in the small intestine) or cilia (as in the gut) and have a vital secretory role (as found in the female reproductive tract).

Pseudostratified epithelium: Ultimately, pseudostratified epithelial cells are columnar epithelial cells with nucleoli at various heights that appear to be two layers but are actually one. Cilia may be present (as found in the nose and bronchi, uterus, and fallopian tubes). The ciliated pseudostratified epithelium is the name for this kind of epithelium.

Simple Squamous Epithelium FAQ

Squamous cells are basic cells that offer protection, secretion, diffusion, and filtration. Simple squamous epithelial cells such as mesothelial cells create the serous membrane surrounding internal organs and bodily cavities, which protects them by secreting a lubricating fluid.

Endothelial cells are another type of specialised basic squamous epithelium that allows gases to pass through blood arteries. These cells have a variety of functions, and depending on where they are, they express and generate various proteins.

Simple Squamous Epithelium Citations
  • Unwrapping the origins and roles of the renal endothelium. Pediatr Nephrol . 2015 Jun;30(6):865-72.
  • Simple limbal epithelial transplantation. Curr Opin Ophthalmol . 2017 Jul;28(4):382-386.
  • Histology, Respiratory Epithelium. PMID: 31082105
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