Microscopic morphology and histology of the human meninges

Morphologie. 2005 Mar;89(284):22-34. doi: 10.1016/s1286-0115(05)83235-7.


The meninges comprise the dura mater and the leptomeninges (arachnoid and pia mater). Dura forms an outer endosteal layer related to the bones of the skull and spine and an inner layer closely applied to the arachnoid mater. Leptomeninges have multiple functions and anatomical relationships. The outer parietal layer of arachnoid is impermeable to CSF due to tight intercellular junctions; elsewhere leptomeningeal cells form demosomes and gap junctions. Trabeculae of leptomeninges compartmentalize the subarachnoid space and join the pia to arachnoid mater. In bacterial meningitis leptomeningeal cells secrete cytokines. Pia mater is reflected from the surface of the brain and spinal cord onto arteries and veins, thus separating the subarachnoid space from the brain and cord. A sheath of leptomeninges accompanies arteries into the brain and is related to the pathways for the drainage of interstitial fluid that play a role in inflammatory responses in the brain and appear to be blocked by amyloid-beta in Alzheimer's disease. Specialised leptomeningeal cells in the stroma of the choroid plexus form collagen whorls that become calcified with age. Leptomeningeal cells also form channels in the core and apical cap of arachnoid granulations for the drainage of CSF into venous sinuses. In the spine, leptomeninges form highly perforated intermediate sheets of arachnoid and delicate ligaments that compartmentalize the subarachnoid space; dentate ligaments anchor subpial collagen to the dura mater and stabilize the spinal cord. Despite the multiple anatomical arrangements and physiological functions, leptomeningeal cells retain many histological features that are similar from site to site.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Meninges / anatomy & histology*
  • Meninges / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron