Connective Tissue

Connective tissue is characterized on the basis of its extracellular matrix

Unlike epithelial cells, connective tissue cells are conspicuously separated from one another. The intervening spaces are occupied by material produced by the cells. This extracellular material is called the extracellular matrix. The nature of the cells and matrix varies according to the function of the tissue. Thus, subclassification of connective tissue takes into account not only the cells but also the composition and organization of the extracellular matrix.

A type of connective tissue found in close association with most epithelia is loose connective tissue (Fig. 3.2a). In fact, it is the connective tissue that most epithelia rest upon. The extracellular matrix of loose connective tissue contains loosely arranged collagen fibers and numerous cells. Some of these cells, the fibroblasts, form and maintain the extracellular matrix. However, most of the cells are migrants from the vascular system and have roles associated with the immune system.

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