Scanning electron microscopy of the basal surface of the epidermis of human digits

Acta Anat (Basel). 1996;155(4):242-8. doi: 10.1159/000147812.


The epidermal-dermal junction of the volar skin of human digits was examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Fixed specimens obtained from cadavers were treated with 6 N NaOH to exfoliate the epithelium. The three-dimensional features of the basal surfaces were clearly visualized by SEM. Epithelial prolongations (intermediate and limiting ridges) protruded towards the dermis, and transverse ridges were visible between them. Nerve fibers and Schwann cells were aggregated around the sweat ducts on the intermediate ridges. Discoid structures were visible among the nerve fibers and Schwann cells. Examination by transmission electron microscopy of ultrathin sections of re-embedded specimens confirmed that the discoid structures were nerve endings that covered the Merkel cells. Minute projections were studded on the basal surfaces of basal keratinocytes. The projections in the intermediate ridges appeared to be villous, whereas the profiles of those in the limiting ridges resembled cobblestones. This morphological difference might be a reflection of function.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / ultrastructure*
  • Fingers*
  • Humans
  • Merkel Cells / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Schwann Cells / ultrastructure
  • Sweat Glands / ultrastructure
  • Toes*