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What are Merkel cells?

Meaning of Merkel cells

The Merkel cell is formed by a nonkeratinocyte that is part of the basal layer of the oral epithelium and the epidermis and that specializes in sensory transduction. Unlike other cells of the same type (non-keratinocytes), which are melanocytes and Langerhans cells, this is not a dendritic cell, presenting, in turn, tonofilaments and keratin desmosomes that connect them with adjacent cells.

Morphologically, this cell is oval to elliptical in shape, parallel in length to the surface of the epidermis.

It usually has clear cytoplasm when viewed histologically. The nucleus may be polymorphic or deeply cut, it is surrounded by dense granules, which are also seen in cell extensions extending into the spinous layer. The function of these granules has not yet been elucidated.

It is possible that each Merkel cell has a communication with an afferent unmyelinated nerve ending, the latter being a complex, known as a Merkel cell-axon, also known as a capillary tactile disc.

There are hypotheses that suggest that this junctional complex or disk acts as a touch receptor, since it is a low-adjustment mechanoreceptor.

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