Mesothelium vs Epithelium: Know the Differences

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Mesothelium vs Epithelium: Epithelium, a broad word for tissues that cover our bodies' surfaces, can take numerous shapes, including the skin that protects us from the outside world and the lining of our interior organs. Mesothelium, a form of epithelium, is responsible for lining our interior cavities, including the chest and abdomen. While Epithelium and Mesothelium have some structural and functional similarities, their origins are fundamentally different. Epithelium is formed from all three embryonic germ layers (ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm), resulting in the many epithelial tissues present throughout the body. Mesothelium, on the other hand, develops exclusively from the mesoderm germ layer. Furthermore, epithelia can be seen lining different surfaces exposed to the external environment (skin) or internal channels (gastrointestinal tract), whereas mesothelium is strictly confined to lining internal body cavities.

Differences Between Mesothelium and Epithelium

Mesothelium and epithelium are both types of tissue found in the body, but they have distinct characteristics and functions. Here are their definitions followed by the difference Between the two:





Lines serous cavities (peritoneal, pleural, pericardial)

Covers surfaces of organs, lines cavities, and forms glands

Cell Shape

Flattened to cuboidal

Can be flattened, cuboidal, or columnar


Single layer

Can be single-layered (simple) or multi-layered (stratified)


Lubrication, absorption, secretion

Protection, absorption, secretion, sensation


Arises from mesoderm

Arises from ectoderm, endoderm, or mesoderm


Cells have microvilli and microfilaments

Cells have specialized structures like microvilli, cilia, tight junctions

Basement Membrane





Avascular, but innervated


Not usually innervated



Lack a basement membrane, presence of microvilli and microfilaments

Rests on a basement membrane, may contain goblet cells, specialized structures like cilia

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What is Mesothelium?

Mesothelium is a form of epithelium that lines the body's main cavities, including the peritoneum (abdominal cavity), pleura (lung cavity), and pericardium. It consists of a single layer of flattened cells that release a lubricating fluid to minimise friction between organs. Mesothelium also affects immune function and wound healing.

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Key Features of Mesothelium:

  • Mesothelium produces two types of membranes: serous membranes, which line cavities such as the peritoneum and pleura, and mucous membranes, which line organs such as the intestines and airways.
  • Mesothelial cells release lubricating fluids, which minimise friction between organs and preserve the underlying tissues. In serous membranes, this fluid is called serous fluid, whereas mucous membranes create mucus for lubrication and protection.
  • Mesothelium, like epithelium, can operate as a barrier against infections and control the flow of chemicals between organs and cavities. For example, the peritoneal mesothelium assists to avoid fluid accumulation and organ adhesion.
  • Mesothelium originates from the same embryonic tissues as epithelium. It helps in embryonic development and, in some cases, tissue repair and regeneration.

What is Epithelium?

The epithelium is a sort of tissue that covers your body's outer surface and lines its organs and cavities. It forms a barrier to protect the underlying tissues, secretes mucus and enzymes, and enables for absorption and excretion. Epithelium is further characterised depending on the number of cell layers (simple or stratified) and cell shape (squamous, cuboidal, or columnar).

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Key Features of Epithelium:

  • Epithelium is distinguished by densely packed layers of cells that form a continuous sheet-like structure. This structure creates a barrier to protect underlying tissues, regulates what enters and exits the body, and facilitates processes such as absorption and secretion.
  • Epithelial tissue lacks its own blood arteries and must rely on diffusion from underlying connective tissues for sustenance. However, it demonstrates a high level of specialisation for a variety of jobs. For example, the epithelium lining the intestine is designed for absorption, whereas the one in the skin serves as a waterproof barrier.
  • Epithelial cells are continually renewing, allowing the body to mend wounds and replace worn-out cells quickly. This is critical for the integrity of the barriers and linings that epithelial tissue creates.
  • Epithelial tissue lies atop a specialised layer known as the basement membrane. This thin, non-cellular layer provides structural support, separates the epithelium from underlying tissues, and plays a role in cell signaling and communication.

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Similarities Between Mesothelium and Epithelium

  • Mesothelium and epithelium. Both are epithelial tissues.
  • They form a barrier against infections and mechanical injury.
  • Both are involved in the absorption and secretion process.
  • Mesothelium and epithelium originate from embryonic germ layers.
  • They are made up of densely packed cells.

Even while epithelium and mesothelium are both epithelial tissues, they differ significantly. Epithelium lines organs and surfaces throughout the body, with some facing the outside (skin) and others lining interior cavities (digestive tract). Mesothelium, on the other hand, borders our major bodily cavities, including the pleura (lungs), peritoneum (abdomen), and pericardium (heart), and produces a lubricating fluid to decrease friction during organ movement. In essence, epithelium refers to the overall covering of tissues, whereas mesothelium is a form of epithelium that lines particular interior areas.

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What is mesothelium and epithelium, and how do they differ?

Mesothelium and epithelium are both types of tissues found in the human body. Epithelium lines the surfaces and cavities of organs, while mesothelium specifically lines the internal body cavities like the pleura, peritoneum, and pericardium. While both tissues are involved in protection and secretion, epithelium is typically found in external surfaces and organs, while mesothelium lines internal body cavities.

What are the similarities between mesothelium and epithelium?

Both mesothelium and epithelium are types of epithelial tissues and share several similarities. They are both composed of layers of cells that are tightly packed together, providing a protective barrier for underlying tissues. Additionally, both tissues are involved in secretion and absorption processes vital for the functioning of organs and bodily systems.

What are the key features of mesothelium and epithelium?

Mesothelium is a single layer of flattened to cuboidal cells that produce a lubricating fluid, allowing organs to move smoothly within body cavities. On the other hand, epithelium can be stratified or simple and is specialized according to its location, such as ciliated epithelium in the respiratory tract for moving mucus. Both tissues play crucial roles in maintaining organ function and protecting underlying tissues.

How do mesothelium and epithelium contribute to bodily functions?

Mesothelium acts as a protective barrier and provides lubrication to prevent friction between organs and body cavities during movement. Epithelium, depending on its location, can facilitate absorption, secretion, and sensory reception. For instance, epithelial cells in the intestines aid in nutrient absorption, while those in the skin act as a barrier against pathogens and regulate temperature.

What are the diseases associated with mesothelium and epithelium dysfunction?

Dysfunction of mesothelium can lead to conditions like mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Epithelial dysfunction can result in various diseases depending on the affected tissue, including skin disorders like psoriasis, respiratory issues such as asthma, and gastrointestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis.