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Connective Tissue

This is a type of supporting tissue which connect

• tissues to tissue
• tissues to structures
• tissues to skeleton
Tissue which provides
• structural and metabolic support
Tissue which functions as
• medium of exchange of nutrients and
1.Acts as biological packing material between cells
and other tissues
eg. loose supporting tissue seen in superficial
fascia, stroma of organs and around nerves
and blood vessels.
2. Forms dense supporting tissue as in the dermis
of the skin, in the capsule that surrounds
organs, and in tendons and ligaments.
3. Act as specialized types of supporting tissue
forming a rigid supporting framework.
eg. Cartilage and bone
4. Has a metabolic function
* in the storage of fat in white adipose tissue
* regulation of the body temperature of the new
born by brown adipose tissue.
5. Plays a major role in defence mechanisms
against pathogens.
6. It functions in tissue repair.
Main components – cells
Extracellular matrix
Cells - responsible for the
• synthesis and maintenance of the EC matrix
• storage and metabolism of fats
• defence and immune functions.
• EC matrix determines the physical properties of
supporting tissue
• made up of organic material that forms
the ground substance
variety of fibres embedded in it.
• contains structural glycoproteins that allows the
interaction of the cells with other constituents

• The nature of the EC matrix determines the

differences in the various types of supporting
• Most types of supporting tissue are derived from
primitive mesenchyme.
• Mesenchymal cells are * irregular cells
*spindle shaped cells
*with slender processes.
• Mucoid tissue- The EC matrix has no mature
fibres in its ground substance and this permits
free diffusion of metabolites.
• This type seen is in the foetus
Three types in relation to their basic functions.
1.Fibroblasts are responsible for the synthesis of
EC matrix.
2.Tissue macrophages, mast cells and
leucocytes - for defence and immune
3.Adipocytes- for the storage and metabolism of
• most numerous cells.
• main function- produce the fibres and
the ground substance of the EC matrix.
• large flattened cells with ovoid nuclei
• long cytoplasmic processes
• When functionally active - the nucleolus is
prominent and fine chromatin granules are
• Well developed ribosomes, rER and Golgi
complex indicate its activity in protein
Rough endoplasmic
• Fibroblsts among collagen fibres
Defence cells of supporting tissue:
Two types-
1.Fixed (intrinsic) type which include tissue
macrophages and mast cells
2.Wandering (extrinsic) which include cells of the
white blood series.
• Ovoid cells with an oval nucleus indented
towards one end.
• The nucleus is irregular and contains
• In an active state lysosomes are abundant but
these are reduced in actively phagocytic cells.
• Active cells have pseudopodia and exhibit,an
amoeboid movement and are used in
• Macrophages are derived from blood monocytes
which migrate to the peripheral tissue and
assume the role of macrophages.
• Macrophages play an important role in the
immune mechanism.
• Macrophages
• MAST CELLS- are found in all types of
supporting tissue
• particularly beneath the skin deep to the lining of
the GI and respiratory tracts and around blood
• are very similar to basophils.
• The extensive cytoplasm of these cells is packed
with large granules* (toluidene blue stains the
granules red.)
• The granules are membrane bound (EM) and
contain a dense amorphous material
• Mast cells with
• Mast cells – deep purple metachromatic
Leucocytes- Their appearance differs from that of
similar cells seen in blood smears.
• Plasma cells- extensive basophilic cytoplasm
(RER and ribosomes)
• pale stained perinuclear area (well developed,
active Golgi)
• an eccentric nucleus with chromatin in a
radiating arrangement (cart wheel),
• are immunologically active lymphocytes that
produce antibodies.
• They are larger than lymphocytes.
• Plasma cell- in loose
areolar tissue
• Plasma cell in the centre, fibroblast on right
• Neutrophils are rare except in acute or chronic
• Eosiniphils are present in large numbers.
• Lymphocytes are recognized by their dense
nucleus and thin rim of cytoplasm.
• Eosinophils and
Adipocytes - *are adopted for the storage of fat
*found in clusters in loose supporting
*main cell type in adipose tissue.
• Two main types- White adipose tissue
Brown adipose tissue
White adipose tissue - found throughout the
body in the deep layers of the skin.
• forms an energy store and an insulator
• functions as a cushion against mechanical
• The fat stored collects as lipid droplets which
accumulate to form large droplets in the
• cytoplasm is reduced to a small rim
• nucleus is compressed.
• With EM the main droplet has an irregular
outline and smaller droplets are seen at the
• Mitochondria are seen in the peripheral


Brown adipose tissue - highly specialized
• is found in the new born
• plays a part in temperature regulation.
• small amounts are found in adults
• arranged in lobules separated by fibrous
• lipid is stored as minute droplets (multilocular)
in the cell.
• The cytoplasm is copious and stains intensely
due to the mitochondria.
• These have numerous closely packed cristae
rich in cytochromes involved in energy
• Nuclei are eccentrically located and are
Fibres - Fibres are mainly of two types
collagen (white) fibres
elastic (yellow) fibres.
Collagen - found in all types of supporting tissue
• most abundant protein in the human body
• flexible it provides a high tensile strength.
• Collagen is secreted by the fibroblasts into the
EC matrix in the form of tropocllagen molecules
Areolar connective tissue.
• All pink fibers - collagenous fibers.
• Dark, thin, more tortuous fibers - elastic )
• Most of the nuclei belong to fibroblasts.
• Reticulin fibres - form the frame work in cellular
organs(liver, lymphoid tissue)
• The fine network of branching fibres is anchored
to the collagenous capsule and septae
• These fibres are not clearly seen with H&E stain.
They stain black with silver stains.
• Reticulin fibres are the earliest collagen fibres to
be produced.
• Elastic fibres - thinner than collagen, exihibit no
banding. They are short branching fibres that
form an irregular network
A - Elastic Fibres
• Ground substance - an amorphous
transparent material in the form of a semifluid
gel in which the cell and fibres are arranged.
• composed of glycosaminoglycans*
(mucopolysaccharides) mainly in the form of
hyaluronic acid linked to a protein molecule to
form proteoglycans (mucoproteins).
• Tissue fluids loosely associated with the ground
substance serve as a medium by which
nutrients, gases and metabolites can be
exchanged between cells and capillaries.
• The ground substance forms a mechanical
barrier to bacteria
• plays an important role in preventing the spread
of microorganisms.
• Hyaluronidase present in some bacteria may
help in their spread.
• The ground substance may also act as selective
barrier to inorganic ions and charged molecules.
• **Structural glycoproteins are made up of protein
chains bound to branched polysaccharides.
1.Loose irregular ordinary supporting tissue
(areolar tissue)
• widely distributed in the body
• consist of a meshwork of thin collagen and
elastic fibres forming a network.
• all supporting tissue cells are found among the
fibres in the ground substance.
2. Dense irregular supporting tissue
• found in the dermis, capsules of organs,
• made up of a network coarse collagen fibres
with a few elastic or reticular fibres. Fibroblasts
are few.
3.Dense regular supporting tissue- consist of
collagen fibres that are densely packed in a
regular arrangement -reflect the mechanical
needs of the tissue.
• Tendons
• Aponeuroses
• Ligaments
• In tendons, the collagen fibres are packed in
parallel bundles. The only types of cells are the
fibroblasts that lie in rows between the
B- collagen fibres

A - fibroblasts
• the collagen fibres are arranged in a broad
• may be in a number of layers with the fibres
of one layer running at an angle to the
adjacent layer.
In ligaments-
• the arrangement of fibres is not so regular.
• In certain sites as in the ligamentum
nuchae and ligamentum flava they are
mainly made up of elastic fibres.
4.Adipose tissue (see section on adipocytes)
5.Mucoid tissue is found in the umbilical cord
(Wharton’s jelly).
• The ground substance is mucoid with a scanty
meshwork of collagen fibres and a few cells.
• The vitreous body is a persistent form of
mucoid tissue.
6.Basement membrane- condensed layer of the
EC matrix of supporting tissue.
• provides mechanical and nutritional support. It
is found in relation to epithelia, nerve and
muscle where they form the external lamina.