Morphology of olfactory epithelium in humans and other vertebrates

Microsc Res Tech. 1992 Oct 1;23(1):49-61. doi: 10.1002/jemt.1070230105.


Human olfactory epithelium is similar in organization and cell morphology to that of most vertebrate species. The epithelium has a pseudostratified columnar organization and consists of olfactory neurons, supporting and basal cells. Near the mucosal surface there are also microvillar cells. These cells have neuron-like features and may be chemoreceptors. Human olfactory epithelium is not a uniform sensory sheet. Patches of non-sensory tissue often appear in what was thought to be a purely olfactory region. The significance of these patches has not been determined, but they could reflect exposure to environment agents or changes that occur during the normal aging process. In order to better understand the human olfactory system, further knowledge of the normal structure is necessary. This review addresses the morphology of the human olfactory epithelium and the remarkable plasticity of the vertebrate olfactory system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Olfactory Mucosa / physiology
  • Olfactory Mucosa / ultrastructure*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology*
  • Vertebrates / physiology