What are Goblet Cells?

Meaning of Goblet Cells

Goblet cells are specialized units in the production of mucus or mucin in the lining of the lumen of some organs. They are epithelial cells originally columnar, but goblet-shaped when filled with mucus granules, hence the name “goblet” – goblet-shaped.

This format varies depending on the amount of its internal content. These cells are also called goblet cells, a French term that also means “goblet.”

Goblet cells can be recognized by light microscopy in a hematoxylin and eosin (HE) histology preparation. They appear in scattered tissue on the lining surface of the lumen, with the nucleus at the basal pole of the cell, due to compression caused by the filling of its mucosal content.

This content appears very clearly and clearly in contrast to the other epithelial cells.

Regarding the basic classification of epithelial tissues, goblet cells are classified as unicellular exocrine glands. They release their content through the apical pole of the cell.

These cells are present in the respiratory and digestive linings and in the conjunctiva of the eye. In these tissues they produce the mucin that forms mucus in contact with water, a gelatinous fluid substance that performs several functions.

Mucin is a polysaccharide, so the cytoplasm of goblet cells is made up of a large number of rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex, responsible for making proteins and adding glucose to them, respectively.

Respiratory system

Goblet cells are present throughout the epithelium of the respiratory tract. However, the respiratory epithelium of the nasal cavity and the epithelium of the nasopharynx, larynx, trachea, and bronchial tree are classified as pseudostratified ciliary epithelium with goblet cells.

This epithelial configuration is what allows the air to be filtered in this tube, so that the mucus released on the surface adheres to the particles that are present in the air and the cilia move towards the nasal cavity, where the mucus with the substrate attached is removed.

Digestive system

In the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), goblet cells are present in the small intestine, large intestine, appendix, and rectum. They are also present in the pancreatic ducts.

In the small intestine, goblet cells lubricate the intestinal lumen. In the large intestine, on the other hand, they are very numerous and the mucus helps in the compaction of the fecal cake and its sliding.

Due to the abrasion to which the intestinal epithelium is subjected by the passage of food, by the release of enzymes and by variations in pH, the goblet cells survive for two to four days and carry out one or two secretion cycles.

The lining of the esophagus does not contain them. When they are present, it is a sign of metaplasia common in Barrett’s esophagus, caused by prolonged exposure to gastric acid in cases of gastroesophageal reflux.

There is also no presence of goblet cells in the stomach, although it does have a mucus-secreting epithelium, which protects it from the corrosive effects of gastric juice.

Goblet Cells in the Eye

The cells are present in the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and the sclera (the white part of the eye) internally.

In this region, the mucus produced and released by these cells forms the innermost part of the tear film, which allows the eyeball to move and the eyelids to slide over their front part, thus avoiding friction on the eyeball. process.

They constitute 10% of the epithelial cells of the conjunctiva and the mucus is related to the glycocalyx of that epithelium. This facilitates the distribution and maintenance of the aqueous layer on the corneal surface.

However, in the limbus and cornea, goblet cells are not present and when they are seen in these regions, they are related to a clinical condition called corneal conjunctivalization.

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