Connective tissue

Connective tissue (CT) is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with epithelial tissue, muscle tissue, and nervous tissue. It develops from the mesoderm. Connective tissue is found in between other tissues everywhere in the body, including the nervous system. In the central nervous system, the three outer membranes (the meninges) that envelop the brain and spinal cord are composed of connective tissue. They support and protect the body. All connective tissue consists of three main components: fibers (elastic and collagenous fibers),[1] ground substance and cells. Not all authorities include blood[2] or lymph as connective tissue because they lack the fiber component. All are immersed in the body water.

The cells of connective tissue include fibroblasts, adipocytes, macrophages, mast cells and leucocytes.

The term "connective tissue" (in German, Bindegewebe) was introduced in 1830 by Johannes Peter Müller. The tissue was already recognized as a distinct class in the 18th century.[3][4]

Connective tissue
Hist.Technik (2)
Section of epididymis. Connective tissue (blue) is seen supporting the epithelium (purple)
Anatomical terminology


Illu connective tissues 1
Illu connective tissues 2

Connective tissue can be broadly subdivided into connective tissue proper, and special connective tissue.[5][6] Connective tissue proper consists of loose connective tissue and dense connective tissue (which is further subdivided into dense regular and dense irregular connective tissues.)[7] Loose and dense connective tissue are distinguished by the ratio of ground substance to fibrous tissue. Loose connective tissue has much more ground substance and a relative lack of fibrous tissue, while the reverse is true of dense connective tissue. Dense regular connective tissue, found in structures such as tendons and ligaments, is characterized by collagen fibers arranged in an orderly parallel fashion, giving it tensile strength in one direction. Dense irregular connective tissue provides strength in multiple directions by its dense bundles of fibers arranged in all directions.

Special connective tissue consists of reticular connective tissue, adipose tissue, cartilage, bone, and blood.[8] Other kinds of connective tissues include fibrous, elastic, and lymphoid connective tissues.[9] Fibroareolar tissue is a mix of fibrous and areolar tissue.[10] New vascularised connective tissue that forms in the process of wound healing is termed granulation tissue.[11] Fibroblasts are the cells responsible for the production of some CT.

Type I collagen is present in many forms of connective tissue, and makes up about 25% of the total protein content of the mammalian body.[12]


Characteristics of CT:

  • Cells are spread through an extracellular fluid.
  • Ground substance - A clear, colorless, and viscous fluid containing glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans to fix the body water and the collagen fibers in the intercellular spaces. Ground substance slows the spread of pathogens.
  • Fibers. Not all types of CT are fibrous. Examples of non-fibrous CT include adipose tissue and blood. Adipose tissue gives "mechanical cushioning" to the body, among other functions.[13][14] Although there is no dense collagen network in adipose tissue, groups of adipose cells are kept together by collagen fibers and collagen sheets in order to keep fat tissue under compression in place (for example, the sole of the foot). The matrix of blood is plasma.
  • Both the ground substance and proteins (fibers) create the matrix for CT. Connective tissues are derived from the mesenchyme.
Tissue Purpose Components Location
Collagenous fibers Bind bones and other tissues to each other Alpha polypeptide chains tendon, ligament, skin, cornea, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, gut, and intervertebral disc.
Elastic fibers Allow organs like arteries and lungs to recoil Elastic microfibril and elastin extracellular matrix
Reticular fibers Form a scaffolding for other cells Type III collagen liver, bone marrow, and lymphatic organs


Connective tissue has a wide variety of functions that depend on the types of cells and the different classes of fibers involved. Loose and dense irregular connective tissue, formed mainly by fibroblasts and collagen fibers, have an important role in providing a medium for oxygen and nutrients to diffuse from capillaries to cells, and carbon dioxide and waste substances to diffuse from cells back into circulation. They also allow organs to resist stretching and tearing forces. Dense regular connective tissue, which forms organized structures, is a major functional component of tendons, ligaments and aponeuroses, and is also found in highly specialized organs such as the cornea.[15]:161 Elastic fibers, made from elastin and fibrillin, also provide resistance to stretch forces.[15]:171 They are found in the walls of large blood vessels and in certain ligaments, particularly in the ligamenta flava.[15]:173

In hematopoietic and lymphatic tissues, reticular fibers made by reticular cells provide the stroma—or structural support—for the parenchyma—or functional part—of the organ.[15]:171

Mesenchyme is a type of connective tissue found in developing organs of embryos that is capable of differentiation into all types of mature connective tissue.[16] Another type of relatively undifferentiated connective tissue is mucous connective tissue, found inside the umbilical cord.[15]:160

Various types of specialized tissues and cells are classified under the spectrum of connective tissue, and are as diverse as brown and white adipose tissue, blood, cartilage and bone.[15]:158 Cells of the immune system, such as macrophages, mast cells, plasma cells and eosinophils are found scattered in loose connective tissue, providing the ground for starting inflammatory and immune responses upon the detection of antigens.[15]:161

Clinical significance

There are many types of connective tissue disorders, such as:

Staining of connective tissue

For microscopic viewing, most of the connective tissue staining-techniques, colour tissue fibers in contrasting shades. Collagen may be differentially stained by any of the following:

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Connective Tissue Study Guide". 2 January 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  2. ^ Dorland, W. A. Newman (2012). Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (32nd ed.). Elsevier. p. 1931. ISBN 978-1-4160-6257-8.
  3. ^ Mathews, M. B. (1975). Connective Tissue, Macromolecular Structure Evolution. Springer-Verlag, Berlin and New York. link.
  4. ^ Aterman, K. (1981). "Connective tissue: An eclectic historical review with particular reference to the liver". The Histochemical Journal. 13 (3): 341–396. doi:10.1007/BF01005055.
  5. ^ Shostak, Stanley. "Connective Tissues". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  6. ^ Carol Mattson Porth; Glenn Matfin (1 October 2010). Essentials of Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 24–. ISBN 978-1-58255-724-3. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  7. ^ Potter, Hugh. "The Connective Tissues". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  8. ^ Caceci, Thomas. "Connective Tisues". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  9. ^ King, David. "Histology Intro". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Medical Definition of FIBROAREOLAR". Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Granulation Tissue Definition". Memidex. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  12. ^ Di Lullo; G. A. (2002). "Mapping the Ligand-binding Sites and Disease-associated Mutations on the Most Abundant Protein in the Human, Type I Collagen". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 277 (6): 4223–31. doi:10.1074/jbc.M110709200. PMID 11704682.
  13. ^ Xu, H.; et al. (2008). "Monitoring Tissue Engineering Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging". Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering. 106 (6): 515–527. doi:10.1263/jbb.106.515. PMID 19134545.
  14. ^ Laclaustra, M.; et al. (2007). "Metabolic syndrome pathophysiology: The role of adiposetissue". Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 17 (2): 125–139. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2006.10.005. PMC 4426988. PMID 17270403.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Ross M, Pawlina W (2011). Histology: A Text and Atlas (6th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 158–197. ISBN 978-0-7817-7200-6.
  16. ^ Young B, Woodford P, O'Dowd G (2013). Wheater's Functional Histology: A Text and Colour Atlas (6th ed.). Elsevier. p. 65. ISBN 978-0702047473.

External links


Adventitia is the outermost connective tissue covering of an organ, vessel, or other structure. It is also called the tunica adventitia or the tunica externa.

For example, the connective tissue that surrounds an artery is called the tunica externa because it is considered extraneous to the artery.

To some degree, its role is complementary to that of the serosa, which also provides a layer of tissue surrounding an organ. In the abdomen, whether an organ is covered in adventitia or serosa depends upon whether it is peritoneal or retroperitoneal:

intraperitoneal organs are covered in serosa (a layer of mesothelium, the visceral peritoneum)

retroperitoneal organs are covered in adventitia (loose connective tissue)In the gastrointestinal tract, the muscular layer is bounded in most cases by serosa. However, at the oral cavity, thoracic esophagus, ascending colon, descending colon and the rectum, the muscularis externa is instead bounded by adventitia. (The muscularis externa of the duodenum is bounded by both tissue types.) Generally, if it is a part of the digestive tract that is free to move, it is covered by serosa, and if it is relatively rigidly fixed, it is covered by adventitia.

The connective tissue of the gallbladder is covered by adventitia where the gallbladder bounds the liver, but by serosa for the rest of its surface.


CTGF, also known as CCN2 or connective tissue growth factor, is a matricellular protein of the CCN family of extracellular matrix-associated heparin-binding proteins (see also CCN intercellular signaling protein). CTGF has important roles in many biological processes, including cell adhesion, migration, proliferation, angiogenesis, skeletal development, and tissue wound repair, and is critically involved in fibrotic disease and several forms of cancers.

Connective tissue disease

A connective tissue disease is any disease that has the connective tissues of the body as a target of pathology. Connective tissue is any type of biological tissue with an extensive extracellular matrix that supports, binds together, and protects organs. These tissues form a framework, or matrix, for the body, and are composed of two major structural protein molecules: collagen and elastin. There are many different types of collagen protein in each of the body's tissues. Elastin has the capability of stretching and returning to its original length—like a spring or rubber band. Elastin is the major component of ligaments (tissues that attach bone to bone) and skin. In patients with connective tissue disease, it is common for collagen and elastin to become injured by inflammation (ICT). Many connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation in tissues as a result of an immune system that is directed against one's own body tissues (autoimmunity).Diseases in which inflammation or weakness of collagen tends to occur are also referred to as collagen diseases. Collagen vascular diseases can be (but are not necessarily) associated with collagen and blood vessel abnormalities and that are autoimmune in nature. See also vasculitis.

Connective tissue diseases can have strong or weak inheritance risks, and can also be caused by environmental factors.

Connective tissue neoplasm

A connective tissue neoplasm or connective tissue tumor is a neoplasm arising from the tissues of the connective tissue. (Not all tumors in the connective tissue are of the connective tissue.)

Elastic fiber

Elastic fibers (or yellow fibers) are bundles of proteins (elastin) found in extracellular matrix of connective tissue and produced by fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells in arteries. These fibers can stretch up to 1.5 times their length, and snap back to their original length when relaxed. Elastic fibers include elastin, elaunin and oxytalan.

Elastic tissue is classified as "connective tissue proper".The elastic fiber is formed from the elastic microfibril (consisting of numerous proteins such as microfibrillar-associated glycoproteins, fibrillin, fibullin, and the elastin receptor) and amorphous elastin.

The microfibril scaffolds and organizes the deposition of amorphous elastin. Amorphous elastin forms from monomers of soluble tropoelastin which is insolubilized and crosslinked into amorphous elastin by lysyl oxidase. Lysyl oxidase reacts with specific lysine residues and by oxidative deamination generates reactive aldehydes and allysine.

These reactive aldehydes and allysines can react with lysine and other allysine residues to crosslink and form desmosine, isodesmosine, and a number of other polyfunctional crosslinks that join surrounding elastin molecules to build an elastin matrix and elastic fiber. These unique crosslinks are responsible for elastin's elasticity.


A fascia (; plural fasciae ; adjective fascial; from Latin: "band") is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. Fascia is classified by layer, as superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location.

Like ligaments, aponeuroses, and tendons, fascia is made up of fibrous connective tissue containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibers oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. Fascia is consequently flexible and able to resist great unidirectional tension forces until the wavy pattern of fibers has been straightened out by the pulling force. These collagen fibers are produced by fibroblasts located within the fascia.Fasciae are similar to ligaments and tendons as they have collagen as their major component. They differ in their location and function: ligaments join one bone to another bone, tendons join muscle to bone, and fasciae surround muscles and other structures.


A fibroblast is a type of biological cell that synthesizes the extracellular matrix and collagen, produces the structural framework (stroma) for animal tissues, and plays a critical role in wound healing. Fibroblasts are the most common cells of connective tissue in animals.


Fibromas are benign tumors that are composed of fibrous or connective tissue. They can grow in all organs, arising from mesenchyme tissue. The term "fibroblastic" or "fibromatous" is used to describe tumors of the fibrous connective tissue. When the term fibroma is used without modifier, it is usually considered benign, with the term fibrosarcoma reserved for malignant tumors.


Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process. This can be a reactive, benign, or pathological state. In response to injury, this is called scarring, and if fibrosis arises from a single cell line, this is called a fibroma. Physiologically, fibrosis acts to deposit connective tissue, which can interfere with or totally inhibit the normal architecture and function of the underlying organ or tissue. Fibrosis can be used to describe the pathological state of excess deposition of fibrous tissue, as well as the process of connective tissue deposition in healing. Defined by the pathological accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, fibrosis results in scarring and thickening of the affected tissue, it is in essence an exaggerated wound healing response which interferes with normal organ function.

Loose connective tissue

Loose connective tissue is a category of connective tissue which includes areolar tissue, reticular tissue, and adipose tissue.

Loose connective tissue is the most common type of connective tissue in vertebrates. It holds organs in place and attaches epithelial tissue to other underlying tissues. For example, it forms telae, such as the tela submucosa and tela subserosa, which connect mucous and serous membranes to the muscular layer. It also surrounds the blood vessels and nerves. Cells called fibroblasts are widely dispersed in this tissue; they are irregular branching cells that secrete strong fibrous proteins and proteoglycans as an extracellular matrix. The cells of this type of tissue are generally separated by quite some distance by a gelatinous substance primarily made up of collagenous and elastic fibers.

Loose connective tissue is named based on the weave and type of its constituent fibers. There are three main types of connective tissue fiber:

Collagenous fibers: collagenous fibers are made of collagen and consist of bundles of fibrils that are coils of collagen molecules.

Elastic fibers: elastic fibers are made of elastin and are "stretchable."

Reticular fibers: reticular fibers consist of one or more types of very thin collagen fibers. They join connective tissues to other tissues.Usually "loose connective tissue" is considered a parent category that includes the mucous connective tissue of the fetus, areolar connective tissue, reticular connective tissue, and adipose tissue.

Marfan syndrome

Marfan syndrome (MFS) is a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. The degree to which people are affected varies. People with Marfan tend to be tall and thin, with long arms, legs, fingers and toes. They also typically have flexible joints and scoliosis. The most serious complications involve the heart and aorta, with an increased risk of mitral valve prolapse and aortic aneurysm. Other commonly affected areas include the lungs, eyes, bones and the covering of the spinal cord.MFS is an autosomal dominant disorder. About 75% of the time, the condition is inherited from a parent, while 25% of the time it is a new mutation. It involves a mutation to the gene that makes fibrillin, which results in abnormal connective tissue. Diagnosis is often based on the Ghent criteria.There is no known cure for Marfan syndrome. Many people have a normal life expectancy with proper treatment. Management often includes the use of beta blockers such as propranolol or atenolol or, if that is not tolerated, calcium channel blockers or ACE inhibitors. Surgery may be required to repair the aorta or replace a heart valve. It is recommended that strenuous exercise be avoided.About 1 in 5,000 to 10,000 individuals have Marfan syndrome. It occurs equally in males and females. Rates are similar between races and in different regions of the world. It is named after Antoine Marfan, a French pediatrician who first described the condition in 1896.


Mesenchyme, in vertebrate embryology, is a type of connective tissue found mostly during the development of the embryo. It is composed mainly of ground substance with few cells or fibers. It can also refer to a group of mucoproteins found in certain types of cysts (etc.), resembling mucus. It is most easily found as a component of Wharton's jelly.

The vitreous of the eyeball is a similar tissue.In invertebrate zoology, the term refers to free cells loosely arranged in a matrix.

Mixed connective tissue disease

Mixed connective tissue disease (also known as Sharp's syndrome), commonly abbreviated as MCTD, is an autoimmune disease characterized by the presence of high blood levels of a specific autoantibody, now called anti-U1 ribonucleoprotein (RNP). The idea behind the "mixed" disease is that this specific autoantibody is also present in other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyositis, scleroderma, etc. It was characterized in 1972, and the term was introduced by Leroy in 1980.It is sometimes said to be the same as undifferentiated connective tissue disease, but other experts specifically reject this idea because undifferentiated connective tissue disease is not necessarily associated with serum antibodies directed against the U1-RNP, and MCTD is associated with a more clearly defined set of signs/symptoms.

Nervous tissue

Nervous tissue, also called neural tissue or nerve tissue, is the main tissue component of the nervous system. The nervous system regulates and controls bodily functions and activity and consists of two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) comprising the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) comprising the branching peripheral nerves. It is composed of neurons, or nerve cells, which receive and transmit impulses, and neuroglia, also known as glial cells or glia, which assist the propagation of the nerve impulse as well as provide nutrients to the neurons.

Nervous tissue is made up of different types of nerve cells, all of which have an axon. An axon is the long stem-like part of the cell that sends action potential signals to the next cell. Bundles of axons make up the nerves in the PNS and tracts in the CNS.

Functions of the nervous system are sensory input, integration, control of muscles and glands, homeostasis, and mental activity.

Reticular connective tissue

Reticular connective tissue is a type of connective tissue with a network of reticular fibers, made of type III collagen (reticulum = net or network). Reticular fibers are not unique to reticular connective tissue, but only in this type are they dominant.Reticular fibers are synthesized by special fibroblasts called reticular cells. The fibers are thin branching structures.

Skeletal muscle

Skeletal muscle is one of three major muscle types, the others being cardiac muscle and smooth muscle. It is a form of striated muscle tissue, which is under the voluntary control of the somatic nervous system. Most skeletal muscles are attached to bones by bundles of collagen fibers known as tendons.

A skeletal muscle refers to multiple bundles (fascicles) of cells joined together called muscle fibers. The fibres and muscles are surrounded by connective tissue layers called fasciae. Muscle fibres, or muscle cells, are formed from the fusion of developmental myoblasts in a process known as myogenesis. Muscle fibres are cylindrical, and have more than one nucleus. They also have multiple mitochondria to meet energy needs.

Muscle fibers are in turn composed of myofibrils. The myofibrils are composed of actin and myosin filaments, repeated in units called sarcomeres, which are the basic functional units of the muscle fiber. The sarcomere is responsible for the striated appearance of skeletal muscle, and forms the basic machinery necessary for muscle contraction.

Subepithelial connective tissue graft

In dentistry, the subepithelial connective tissue graft (SECT graft, and sometimes referred to simply as a connective tissue (CT) graft) is an oral and maxillofacial surgical procedure first described by Alan Edel in 1974. Currently, it is generally used to obtain root coverage following gingival recession, which was a later development by Burt Langer in the early 1980s.

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