Identification of distinct layers within the stratified squamous epithelium of the adult human true vocal fold

Jayme R. Dowdall, Peter M. Sadow, Christopher Hartnick, Vladimir Vinarsky, Hongmei Mou, Rui Zhao, Phillip C. Song, Ramon A. Franco, Jayaraj Rajagopal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis A precise molecular schema for classifying the different cell types of the normal human vocal fold epithelium is lacking. We hypothesize that the true vocal fold epithelium has a cellular architecture and organization similar to that of other stratified squamous epithelia including the skin, cornea, oral mucosa, and esophagus. In analogy to disorders of the skin and gastrointestinal tract, a molecular definition of the normal cell types within the human vocal fold epithelium and a description of their geometric relationships should serve as a foundation for characterizing cellular changes associated with metaplasia, dysplasia, and cancer. Study Design Qualitative study with adult human larynges. Methods Histologic sections of normal human laryngeal tissue were analyzed for morphology (hematoxylin and eosin) and immunohistochemical protein expression profile, including cytokeratins (CK13 and CK14), cornified envelope proteins (involucrin), basal cells (NGFR/p75), and proliferation markers (Ki67). Results We demonstrated that three distinct cell strata with unique marker profiles are present within the stratified squamous epithelium of the true vocal fold. We used these definitions to establish that cell proliferation is restricted to certain cell types and layers within the epithelium. These distinct cell types are reproducible across five normal adult larynges. Conclusion We have established that three layers of cells are present within the normal adult stratified squamous epithelium of the true vocal fold. Furthermore, replicating cell populations are largely restricted to the parabasal strata within the epithelium. This delineation of distinct cell populations will facilitate future studies of vocal fold regeneration and cancer. Level of Evidence N/A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E313-E319
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Vocal fold
  • basal cell
  • biomarkers
  • cytokeratin
  • differentiation
  • epithelium
  • histology
  • involucrin
  • larynx
  • proliferation
  • stratified squamous
  • true vocal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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