World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Parafollicular cell

Article Id: WHEBN0000608854
Reproduction Date:

Title: Parafollicular cell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Thyroid, Ultimopharyngeal body, Calcitonin, Follicular cell, Medullary thyroid cancer
Collection: Human Cells, Peptide Hormone Secreting Cells, Thyroid
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Parafollicular cell

Parafollicular cell
Histology section of the thyroid showing follicles, where parafollicular cells reside
Code TH H3.
Anatomical terminology

Parafollicular cells (also called C cells) are neuroendocrine cells in the thyroid which primary function is to secrete calcitonin. They are located adjacent to the thyroid follicles and reside in the connective tissue. These cells are large and have a pale stain compared with the follicular cells or colloid. In teleost and avian species these cells occupy a structure outside of the thyroid gland named the ultimobranchial body.


  • Structure 1
    • Development 1.1
  • Function 2
  • Clinical significance 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Parafollicular cells are pale-staining cells found in small number in the thyroid and are typically situated basally in the epithelium, without direct contact with the follicular lumen. They are always situated within the basement membrane, which surrounds the entire follicle.


Parafollicular cells are derived from neural crest cells. Embryologically, they associate with the ultimobranchial body, which is a ventral derivative of the fourth (or fifth) pharyngeal pouch. In a series of experiments, neural crest cells were transplanted from quail, with unique and easily identified nuclei, into non-quail neural crest. The presence of cells with quail nuclei populating the ultimobranchial body was demonstrated, which raised the conclusion that C cells migrate during embryologic development from the neural crest.[1][2]


Parafollicular cells secrete calcitonin, a hormone that participates in the regulation of calcium metabolism. It is important in fish and rodents, but its relevance in humans has not been demonstrated. Calcitonin lowers blood levels of calcium by inhibiting the resorption of bone by osteoclasts, and its secretion is increased proportionally with the concentration of calcium.[3]

Parafollicular cells are also known to secrete in smaller quantities several neuroendocrine peptides such as serotonin, somatostatin or CGRP.[4][5][6] They may also have a role in regulating thyroid hormones production locally, as they express thyrotropin-releasing hormone.[7][8]

Clinical significance

When parafollicular cells become cancerous, they lead to medullary carcinoma of the thyroid.


  1. ^ Le Douarin, N; Fontaine, J; Le Lièvre, C (Mar 13, 1974). "New studies on the neural crest origin of the avian ultimobranchial glandular cells--interspecific combinations and cytochemical characterization of C cells based on the uptake of biogenic amine precursors.". Histochemistry 38 (4): 297–305.  
  2. ^ Barasch, J; Gershon, MD; Nunez, EA; Tamir, H; al-Awqati, Q (December 1988). "Thyrotropin induces the acidification of the secretory granules of parafollicular cells by increasing the chloride conductance of the granular membrane." (PDF). The Journal of Cell Biology 107 (6 Pt 1): 2137–47.  
  3. ^ Melmed, S; Polonsky, KS; Larsen, PR; Kronenberg, HM (2011). Williams Textbook of Endocrinology (12th ed.). Saunders. p. 1250–1252.  
  4. ^ Zabel, M (December 1984). "Ultrastructural localization of calcitonin, somatostatin and serotonin in parafollicular cells of rat thyroid.". The Histochemical journal 16 (12): 1265–72.  
  5. ^ Barasch, JM; Mackey, H; Tamir, H; Nunez, EA; Gershon, MD (September 1987). "Induction of a neural phenotype in a serotonergic endocrine cell derived from the neural crest." (PDF). The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 7 (9): 2874–83.  
  6. ^ Bernd, P; Gershon, MD; Nunez, EA; Tamir, H (March 1981). "Separation of dissociated thyroid follicular and parafollicular cells: association of serotonin binding protein with parafollicular cells." (PDF). The Journal of Cell Biology 88 (3): 499–508.  
  7. ^ Gkonos, PJ; Tavianini, MA; Liu, CC; Roos, BA (December 1989). "Thyrotropin-releasing hormone gene expression in normal thyroid parafollicular cells.". Molecular endocrinology (Baltimore, Md.) 3 (12): 2101–9.  
  8. ^ Morillo-Bernal, Jesús; Fernández-Santos, José M.; Utrilla, José C.; de Miguel, Manuel; García-Marín, Rocío; Martín-Lacave, Inés (1 August 2009). "Functional expression of the thyrotropin receptor in C cells: new insights into their involvement in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis". Journal of Anatomy 215 (2): 150–158.  

Further reading

  • Baber EC: Contributions to the minute anatomy of the thyroid gland of the dog. Phil Trans R Soc 166 (1876) 557-568 (full text)

External links

  • Histology image: 42_04 at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  • Histology image: 14302loa – Histology Learning System at Boston University
  • Histology at KUMC endo-/endo10
  • Anatomy Atlases - Microscopic Anatomy, plate 15.287
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.