Clara cell

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Clara cells are non-mucous and non-ciliated secretory cells found in the primary bronchioles of the lungs.

Clara cells are dome-shaped and have short microvilli. One of the main functions of Clara cells is to protect the bronchiolar epithelium. They do this by secreting a small variety of products, including Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) and a component of the lung surfactant. They are also responsible for detoxifying harmful substances inhaled into the lungs. Clara cells accomplish this with cytochrome P450 enzymes found in their smooth endoplasmic reticulum. Clara cells also multiply and differentiate into ciliated cells to regenerate the bronchiolar epithelium.

Clara cells were originally described by their namesake, Max Clara in 1937.

The respiratory bronchioles represent the transition from the conducting portion to the respiratory portion of the respiratory system. The narrow channels are usually less than 2 mm in diameter and they are lined by a simple cuboidal epithelium, consisting of ciliated cells and non-ciliated Clara cells, which are unique to bronchioles. In addition to being structurally diverse, Clara cells are also functionally variable. One major function they carry out is the synthesis and secretion of the material lining the bronchiolar lumen. This material includes glycosaminoglycans, and proteins such as antibodies and lysosymes. These play an important defensive role, and they also contribute to the degradation of the mucus produced by the upper airways. The heterogeneous nature of the dense granules within the Clara cell's cytoplasm suggests that they may not all have a secretory function. Some of them may contain lysosomal enzymes, which carry out a digestive role, either in defense: Clara cells engulf airborne toxins and break them down via their cytochrome P-450 enzymes present in their smooth endoplasmic reticulum; or in the recycling of secretory products. Clara cells are mitotically active cells. They divide and differentiate to form both ciliated and non-ciliated epithelial cells.

See also


  • Dudek, Ronald W. High-Yield Histology, 3rd ed. (2004). ISBN 0-7817-4763-5
  • Gartner, Leslie P. and James L. Hiatt. Color Textbook of Histology, 2nd ed. (2001). ISBN 0-7216-8806-3
  • "Zur Histobiologie des Bronchialepithels." Z. mikrosk.-anat. Forsch. 4: 321-347.

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