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StatPearls . Sweetheart Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.



Skin is the largest organ in the body and covers the body"s entire external surface. That is comprised of three layers, the epidermis, dermis, and also the hypodermis, all three of i m sorry vary substantially in your anatomy and also function. The skin"s framework is consisted of of an detailed network i m sorry serves as the body’s initial barrier against pathogens, UV light, and chemicals, and also mechanical injury. It additionally regulates temperature and also the quantity of water released right into the environment. This write-up discusses the pertinent anatomical structures of the skin’s epidermal layer, that structure, function, embryology, vascular supply, innervation, surgical considerations, and clinical relevance.

Skin Thickness

The thickness of each layer that the skin varies relying on body an ar and categorized based upon the thickness that the epidermal and dermal layers. Hairless skin discovered in the palms that the hands and soles that the feet is thickest due to the fact that the epidermis consists of an extra layer, the stratum lucidum. The upper earlier is taken into consideration thickest based upon the thickness the the dermis, but it is considered “thin skin” histologically because the epidermal thickness lacks the stratum lucidum layer and also is thinner than hairless skin.

Layers of Epidermis

The class of the epidermis encompass the stratum basale (the deepest portion of the epidermis), stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and stratum corneum (the many superficial portion of the epidermis).

Stratum basale, also well-known as stratum germinativum, is the deepest layer, separated indigenous the dermis by the basement membrane (basal lamina) and also attached to the basement membrane by hemidesmosomes. The cells discovered in this layer space cuboidal to columnar mitotically active stem cell that are constantly developing keratinocytes. This layer likewise contains melanocytes.

Stratum spinosum, 8-10 cell layers, also recognized as the prickle cabinet layer contains irregular, polyhedral cells through cytoplasmic processes, sometimes dubbed “spines”, that extend outward and also contact neighboring cells by desmosomes. Dendritic cells deserve to be uncovered in this layer.

Stratum granulosum, 3-5 cabinet layers, contains diamond shaped cells v keratohyalin granules and also lamellar granules. Keratohyalin granules contain keratin precursors that at some point aggregate, crosslink, and kind bundles. The lamellar granules contain the glycolipids that get secreted come the surface ar of the cells and role as a glue, keeping the cells stuck together.

Stratum lucidum, 2-3 cabinet layers, present in more thickness skin discovered in the palms and also soles, is a slim clear layer consisting that eleidin i beg your pardon is a revolution product of keratohyalin.

Stratum corneum, 20-30 cell layers, is the uppermost layer, comprised of keratin and horny scales comprised of dead keratinocytes, recognized as anucleate squamous cells. This is the layer i beg your pardon varies many in thickness, especially in callused skin. Within this layer, the dead keratinocytes secrete defensins i m sorry are component of our an initial immune defense.

Cells of the Epidermis


Keratinocytes space the primary cell type of epidermis and originate in the basal layer, create keratin, and also are responsible for the formation of the epidermal water obstacle by making and secreting lipids. Keratinocytes also regulate calcium absorb by the activation the cholesterol precursors by UVB irradiate to kind vitamin D.


Melanocytes are obtained from neural crest cells and also primarily produce melanin, which is responsible because that the colours of the skin. They space found in between cells of stratum basale and produce melanin. UVB light stimulates melanin cheap which is protective versus UV radiation, acting as a built-in sunscreen. Melanin is created during the switch of tyrosine to DOPA through the enzyme tyrosinase. Melanin then travels from cell to cell by a procedure that depends on the long processes extending from the melanocytes to the surrounding epidermal cells. Melanin granules from melanocytes space transferred via the lengthy processes to the cytoplasm that basal keratinocyte. Melanin moved to bordering keratinocytes by “pigment donation”; requires phagocytosis of tips of melanocyte processes by keratinocytes.

Langerhans’ Cells

Langerhans cells, dendritic cells, room the skins first line defenders and play a far-ranging role in antigen presentation. These cells require special stains come visualize, primarily discovered in the stratum spinosum. These cells space the mesenchymal origin, derived from CD34 positive stem cells of bone marrow and also are part of the mononuclear phagocytic system. Castle contain Birbeck granules, tennis racket shame cytoplasmic organelles. This cells to express both MHC I and also MHC II molecules, uptake antigens in skin and also transport come the lymph node.

Merkel Cells

Merkel cells space oval-shaped modification epidermal cells discovered in stratum basale, directly above the basement membrane. These cells offer a sensory role as mechanoreceptors because that light touch, and also are many populous in fingertips, though likewise found in the palms, soles, oral, and genital mucosa. They are bound to adjoining keratinocytes through desmosomes and contain intermediary keratin filaments and also their membranes connect with totally free nerve end in the skin.


The dermis is linked to the epidermis in ~ the level of the basement membrane and consists of 2 layers, of connective tissue, the papillary and reticular layers i beg your pardon merge with each other without clean demarcation. The papillary layer is the upper layer, thinner, written of loose connective tissue and contacts epidermis. The reticular layer is the depths layer, thicker, less cellular, and also consists of thick connective tissue/ majority of collagen fibers. The dermis homes the sweat glands, hair, hair follicles, muscles, sensory neurons, and blood vessels.


The hypodermis is deep to the dermis and is likewise called subcutaneous fascia. That is the deepest layer of skin and also contains adipose lobules in addition to some skin appendages choose the hair follicles, sensory neurons, and also blood vessels.

Structure and also Function

The skin has plenty of functions. The serves as a barrier to water, intrusion by microorganisms, mechanical and chemical trauma, and damage indigenous UV light. The epidermal water barrier established through the cell envelop, a layer that insoluble protein on the inner surface ar of the plasma membrane. That is developed by cross-linking of little proline-rich proteins and also larger proteins choose cystatin, desmoplakin, filaggrin and also contributes to strong mechanics the barrier. And the lipid envelope, a lipid/hydrophobic class attached to the external surface that the plasma membrane. As keratinocytes in stratum spinosum create keratohyalin granules, they also produce lamellar body (containing a mixture that glycosphingolipids, phospholipids, and also ceramides) assembled within Golgi.  Lamellar bodies’ materials are then secreted by exocytosis into extracellular spaces in between the stratum granulosum and also corneum. Skin is the first site the immunological defense by the action of the Langerhans cell in the epidermis which space dendritic epidermal T lymphocytes and part of the adaptive immune system. The skin preservation the body homeostasis by regulating temperature and also water loss, while additionally serving both endocrine and exocrine functions. The endocrine functions include the manufacturing of vitamin D in the keratinocytes which space responsible because that converting 7-dehydrocholesterol in the epidermis to vitamin D, v the assistance of UV irradiate from the sun. The keratinocytes express the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and also contain the enzymes necessary to convert vitamin D come its active type of 1, 25 dihydroxy vitamin D. The definition of the VDR is the stimulation of it plays a function in the proliferation the the stratum basale and differentiation of keratinocytes as they move upwards in the epidermis. The exocrine functions of the skin are by means of the sweat and sebaceous glands. Another important role of the skin is a sensation to touch, heat, cold, and also pain through the action of the nociceptors. The basic appearance, turgor, and also other qualities additionally give understanding into the basic health of the body. <7><8><9><10> 


The epidermis is obtained from ectodermal tissue. The dermis and hypodermis are acquired from mesodermal tissue from somites. The mesoderm is also responsible because that the formation of Langerhans cells. Neural stakes cells, responsible for dedicated sensory nerve endings and melanocyte formation migrate into the epidermis throughout epidermal development. <11><12>

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

Blood vessels and also lymphatic vessels are found in the dermal great of the skin. Blood supply to the skin is an plan of two plexuses, the an initial lies in between the papillary and reticular great of the dermis and the 2nd lie in between the dermis and subcutaneous tissues. Supply to the epidermis is by means of the superficial arteriovenous plexus (subepidermal/papillary plexus). This vessels are essential for temperature regulation. The mechanism whereby the body regulates temperature v the skin is an extremely effective and works by raised blood flow to the skin, transferring warmth from the body to the environment. The alters in blood flow are controlled by the autonomic concerned system, sorry stimulation causing vasoconstriction (heat retention) and also while vasodilation outcomes in heat loss. Vasodilation of the blood ship is the solution to enhanced body temperature and is the an outcome of inhibition of the forgiveness centers in the posterior hypothalamus whereas diminished body temperature will cause vasoconstriction of skin blood vessels. <13> <14>


Nerves the the skin encompass both somatic and also autonomic nerves. The somatic sensory system is responsible for pain (nociceptors), temperature, irradiate touch, discriminative touch, vibration, pressure, and proprioception medicated generally by committed cutaneous receptors/end organs consisting of Merkel disks, Pacinian corpuscles, Meissner’s corpuscles, and also Ruffini corpuscles. The autonomic innervation is responsible because that the manage of the ton of the vasculature, pilomotor stimulation in ~ the hair root, and also sweating. The free nerve endings extend into the epidermis and sense pain, heat, and cold. They space most plenty of in the stratum granulosum layer and surround many hair follicles. Merkel disks sense light touch and reach the stratum basale layer. The various other nerve endings are discovered in the deeper portions of the skin and include the Pacinian corpuscle which senses deep pressure, Meissner’s corpuscle which senses low-frequency stimulation in ~ the level the the dermal papillae, and also Ruffini corpuscles which feeling pressure. <15><16><17>


The arrector chili muscles space bundles of smooth muscle yarn that connect to the connective organization sheath that hair follicles. When the muscles contract, they traction the hair follicle outward bring about the hair erecting increase but additionally compresses the sebaceous glands, resulting in the cheap of their contents. Hair go not departure perpendicularly, yet instead in ~ an angle. This erection that hair also produces goosebumps, the bumpy figure of the skin. <18>

Physiologic Variants

Skin is repetitively shedding and also desquamating and also varies slightly relying on the body region. There are much more layers of cell in thicker hairless skin with second layer, recognized as the stratum lucidum. Overall, the process of cabinet division, desquamation, and shedding go as follows:

Cell division occurs in stratum basale/germinativum. One cell remains, one more cell is pushed toward the surface. Basal cell begin synthesis of tonofilaments (composed that keratin) which are grouped into bundles (tonofibrils).
Cells room pushed into stratum spinosum. In the upper component of the spinous layer, cells begin to produce keratohyalin granules having intermediate-associated proteins, filaggrin, and trichohyalin; helps accumulation keratin filaments and also conversion of granular cells to cornified cells, i.e. Keratinization. Cells additionally produce lamellar bodies.
Cells space pushed into stratum granulosum and become flattened and diamond shaped. The cells accumulate keratohyalin granules mixed between tonofibrils.
Cells proceed to stratum corneum where they flatten and lose organelles and also nuclei.  The keratohyalin granules revolve tonofibrils right into a homogenous keratin matrix.

Surgical Considerations

Langer’s Lines, likewise known as cleavage lines, are topological lines used to define the stress and anxiety of the skin, matching to the alignment the collagen and elastic fibers in the reticular dermis. Surgical incisions made along these lines, much less scarring will occur. <21>

Clinical Significance

There are plenty of clinically far-reaching aspects the the skin, consisting of the dermatomes the the skin, skin segments divided based on the afferent nerves they space supplied by which are numbered follow to the level of spinal vertebral indigenous which castle arise. Over there are seven cervical, twelve thoracic, five lumbar, and five sacral. Details diseases favor shingles, led to by varicella-zoster infection, have actually pain sensation and eruptive rashes the involve a dermatomal distribution. Dermatomes are beneficial in the diagnosis the vertebral spinal injury levels. Aside from the dermatomes, the cells of the epidermis are susceptible come neoplastic transforms resulting in assorted cancer types. Some autoimmune and also immunological illness target the desmosomes and also hemidesmosomes founds in the epidermis. Particular infections can likewise disrupt the truth of the epidermis along with drug reactions that existing variably as well.

Squamous cabinet carcinoma is cancer that arises indigenous mutated keratinocytes, usually due to UV damage in individuals with type I or II skin varieties (light skin, blue or eco-friendly eyes, red or blonde hair, burn and also never tan) and often show up as scaly, flaky, thick red patches that may bleed or even show up wart-like. This type of skin cancer deserve to metastasize. Squamous cabinet carcinoma might arise indigenous actinic keratosis, i beg your pardon is also caused by sun damages to the epidermal class of skin and also may have actually cutaneous horns. Basal cabinet carcinoma is a cancer of the basal great of the epidermis and is much less likely come metastasize. This kind of skin cancer is more common in sun-exposed areas and often show up are pearly papules ~ above the face, with telangiectasias and also ulcerate easily. Melanomas are cancers the the melanocytes and also have a high metastatic potential, significantly mediated by the depth the the lesion. Melanomas deserve to be uncovered anywhere top top the body, space usually irregularly pigmented yet can be amelanotic. Langerhans cell Histiocytosis is a type of cancer whereby Langerhans cell accumulate in the body and result in the development of granulomas, regularly in the bones, resulting in bone pain. This granulomas can likewise appear in the skin like rashes, erythematous papules or blisters. An interesting association with this problem is the effect of the pituitary gland, which can be influenced and individuals may existing with diabetes insipidus, infertility, or other endocrine diseases due to inadequate hormones. Various other serious and deadly symptom are because of pancytopenia (anemia, thrombocytopenia, leukocytopenia) as a direct solution to overcrowding by the Langerhans cells. Merkel cell carcinoma is an unusual cancer of the Merkel cells and is categorized as neuroendocrine tiny cell carcinoma

Pemphigus vulgaris is one autoimmune condition that targets the intercellular proteins, desmosomes, that affix the keratinocytes to every other. Blisters kind within the epidermis and are quickly ruptured, resulting in acantholysis histologically. This an illness is connected with a confident nikolsky sign, peeling away from the epidermis with rubbing of the area. Bullous Pemphigoid is another blistering condition that results in it is too dirty subepidermal blisters in larger populations, that are as result of antibodies that target the hemidesmosomes that connect the epidermis in ~ the level of the basement membrane come the extracellular matrix of the dermis. This problem is not acantholytic and also is not connected with a confident nikolsky sign.

Infections that impact the truth of the skin include scalded skin syndrome led to by the exfoliative toxin released by staphylococcal aureus bacteria infection. This infection outcomes in peeling far of the skin, optimistic nikolsky, an illustration of a major burn (very red), and fever. Drug reactions like dress syndrome, erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnsons syndrome, and also Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis syndrome room often linked with specific medications that incorporate sulfa-containing drugs, NSAIDs, and also anti-seizure medications. <22><23><24><25><26><27><28><29>

Other Issues

The epidermal class of skin consists of much of our typical flora and also the microbiome that the epidermis varies based upon the human body region. The microorganisms the inhabit our skin surface is nonpathogenic and can be commensal or mutualistic in nature. The bacteria that tend to predominate space staphylococci epidermidis, aureus, cutibacterium acnes, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus, candida and also clostridium perfringens. Once the security skin barrier is altered, an infection have the right to occur.  <30>




Histology, Trichodysplasia spinulosa, Trichodysplasia spinulosa polyomavirus, Healthy manage on top, TS skin top top the bottom, Skin over view, Epidermis, Hair follicle, Acanthosis, Eosinophilic protein granules, trichohyalin, the Stain. Contributed by Kazem (more...)

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