Merkel cell

Merkel cell
Neuron: Merkel cell
Merkel cell - Diagram of human skin. In humans, Merkel cells (yellow dot) are found clustered beneath the epidermal ridges (aka fingerprints).
Diagram of human skin. In humans, Merkel cells (yellow dot) are found clustered beneath the epidermal ridges (aka fingerprints).
NeuroLex ID nifext_87
v · d · e

Merkel cells or Merkel-Ranvier cells are oval receptor cells found in the skin of vertebrates that have synaptic contacts with somatosensory afferents. They are associated with the sense of light touch discrimination of shapes and textures. They can turn malignant and form the skin tumor known as Merkel cell carcinoma.

There is evidence that they are derived from neural crest.[1] More recent experiments in mammals have indicated that they are in fact epithelial in origin.[2]



Merkel cells are found in the skin and some parts of the mucosa (stratum germinativum) or also known as stratum basale of all vertebrates. In mammalian skin, they are clear cells found in the stratum basale (at the bottom of sweat duct ridges) of the epidermis approximately 10 µm in diameter. They also occur in epidermal invaginations of the plantar foot surface called rete ridges.[3] Most often, they are associated with sensory nerve endings, when they are known as Merkel nerve endings (also called a Merkel cell-neurite complex). They are associated with slowly adapting (SA1) somatosensory nerve fibers.


Friedrich S. Merkel referred to these cells as Tastzellen or "touch cells" but this proposed function has been controversial as it has been hard to prove. However, genetic knockout mice have recently shown that Merkel cells are essential for the specialized coding by which afferent nerves resolve fine spatial details.[4] Merkel cells are sometimes considered APUD cells because they contain dense core granules, and thus may also have a neuroendocrine function.

Developmental origin

The origin of Merkel cells has been debated for over 20 years. Evidence from skin graft experiments in birds implies that they are neural crest derived, but experiments in mammals now demonstrate an epidermal origin.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ K. I. Baumann; Zdenek Halata; I. Moll (2003). The Merkel cell: structure-development-function- cancerogenesis. Springer. pp. 99–. ISBN 9783540003748. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Morrison, Kristin; George R. Miesegaes, Ellen A. Lumpkin, Stephen M. Maricich. (2009). "Mammalian Merkel cells are descended from the epidermal lineage.". Developmental Biology 336. doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.09.032. 
  3. ^ Halata, Z; Grim, M; Bauman, KI (2003). "Friedrich Sigmund Merkel and his "Merkel cell", morphology, development, and physiology: review and new results". The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology 1) (271): 225–39. doi:10.1002/ar.a.10029. PMID 12552639. 
  4. ^ Maricich SM, Wellnitz SA, Nelson AM, Lesniak DR, Gerling GJ, Lumpkin EA, Zoghbi HY. (2009). "Merkel Cells are Essential for Light Touch Responses". Science 324 (5934): 1580–82. doi:10.1126/science.1172890. PMC 2743005. PMID 19541997. 
  5. ^ Morrison KM, Miesegaes GR, Lumpkin EA, Maricich SM. (September 25, 2009). "Mammalian Merkel cells are descended from the epidermal lineage". Dev Biol 336 (1): 76–83. doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.09.032. PMC 2783667. PMID 19782676. 
  6. ^ Van Keymeulen A, Mascre G, Youseff KK, Harel I, Michaux C, De Geest N, Szpalski C, Achouri Y, Bloch W, Hassan BA, Blanpain C. (2009). "Epidermal progenitors give rise to Merkel cells during embryonic development and adult homeostasis". J Cell Biol 1 (187): 91–100. doi:10.1083/jcb.200907080. PMC 2762088. PMID 19786578. 

External links