Morphology and functional roles of synoviocytes in the joint

Arch Histol Cytol. 2000 Mar;63(1):17-31. doi: 10.1679/aohc.63.17.


The joint capsule exhibits a unique cellular lining in the luminal surface of the synovial membrane. The synovial intimal cells, termed synoviocytes, are believed to be responsible for the production of synovial fluid components, for absorption from the joint cavity, and for blood/synovial fluid exchanges, but their detailed structure and function as well as pathological changes remain unclear. Two types of synoviocytes, macrophagic cells (type A cells) and fibroblast-like cells (type B cells) have been identified. Type A synoviocytes are non-fixed cells that can phagocytose actively cell debris and wastes in the joint cavity, and possess an antigen-presenting ability. These type A cells, derived from blood-borne mononuclear cells, can be considered resident macrophages (tissue macrophages) like hepatic Kupffer cells. Type B synoviocytes are characterized by the rich existence of rough endoplasmic reticulum, and dendritic processes which form a regular network in the luminal surface of the synovial membrane. Their complex three-dimensional architecture was first revealed by our recent scanning electron microscopy of macerated samples. The type B cells, which are proper synoviocytes, are involved in production of specialized matrix constituents including hyaluronan, collagens and fibronectin for the intimal interstitium and synovial fluid. The proliferative potentials of type B cells in loco are much higher than type A cells, although the transformation of subintimal fibroblasts into type B cells can not be excluded. In some mammals, type B cells show features suggesting endocrine and sensory functions, but these are not recognized in other species. The synoviocytes, which form a discontinuous cell layer, develop both fragmented basement membranes around the cells and junctional apparatus such as desmosomes and gap junctions. For an exact understanding of the mechanism of arthritis, we need to establish the morphological background of synoviocytes as well as their functions under normal conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Horses
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Joints / ultrastructure
  • Laminin / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Rats
  • Synovial Membrane / cytology*
  • Synovial Membrane / physiology*
  • Synovial Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Temporomandibular Joint / ultrastructure


  • Laminin