What is a Mucous membrane?

A mucous membrane is a moist lining or a membrane that lines multiple cavities in the body and shields the surface of internal organs, including the gastrointestinal tract, nasal passages and other body cavities.

The mucous membrane is the endodermal origin, which continues with the skin at body openings, including the eyes, ears, nose, lips, inside the mouth, the urethral opening and the anus and vagina in females.

Also Refer: Human Body Structure

Structure of the mucous membrane


The mucous membrane comprises one or more layers of epithelial cells, overlaying a layer of loose connective tissue. These membranes generally differ in their structure, though they all contain a surface layer of epithelial cells over a deeper layer of connective tissue.

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Functions of the mucous membrane

The primary function of the mucous membrane is to keep the tissue moist. Other functions of the mucous membrane include:

  • Protection and secretion
  • It acts as a barrier for mechanical trauma
  • It prevents bodily tissues from becoming dehydrated
  • It is also involved in the salivary and mucus secretion
  • It also plays a role in absorbing and transforming nutrients
  • Mucous membranes also involve sensations – touch, pain, taste buds, thirst, temperature (heat and cold), and other reflexes such as etching, gagging, salivating, and swallowing
  • Mucous membranes also protect the body by safeguarding from the invading pathogens and microbiological insults- an event that causes damage to a tissue or organ.

In some animals, such as dogs, mucous membranes are involved in all thermoregulation mechanisms.

Location of the mucous membrane

Mucous membranes are found as a membrane lining body cavities and channels that line many tracts and structures of the body, including:

  • Ureters
  • Eyelids
  • Urethra
  • Urinary bladder
  • Nose and mouth
  • The digestive tracts
  • The urogenital tracts
  • The respiratory tracts
  • Stomach and intestines
  • Lungs and trachea (windpipe)

Mucous membrane Diagram


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Frequently Asked Questions


How is the oral mucosa different from the skin?

The oral mucosa differs from the skin in colour, texture, firmness, and moist surface.

Other features which differentiate oral mucosa from the skin are:

  • Existence of inconsequential salivary glands in oral mucosa.
  • Absence of adnexal skin structures, such as hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.
  • The texture of the surface of the oral mucosa is smoother than the skin.
  • Oral mucosa varies in its firmness. Some of these mucosa membranes are loose and pliable, as present in buccal mucosa and lips, while some are firm as present in the hard palate and gingiva.

What are the factors affecting the colour of the oral mucosa?

The normal colour of the oral mucosa appears normal pale pink, while the inflamed oral tissues appear red rather than the usual pale pink. There are various factors involved in affecting the colour of the oral mucosa. These factors include:

  • Degree of keratinization
  • The thickness of the epithelium
  • Amount of melanin pigmentation
  • Concentration and state of dilation of the blood vessels in underlying connective tissue.

Which of the following diseases mainly affects the mucous membrane of the urinogenital tract?

(a) AIDS

(b) Syphilis

(c) Gonorrhoea

(d) All of these

The correct answer is (c) Gonorrhoea.

Gonorrhoea affects the mucous membrane of the urinogenital tract in both males and females. Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.


What is the function of the mucous membrane in the nose?

The nose is a primary sense organ of smell and an essential respiratory organ in the body.

The function of the mucous membrane in the nose are:

  • The mucous membrane warms the air we breathe in
  • The mucous membrane lines the nose, throat, and sinuses
  • The mucous membrane forms a gluey mucus that controls the dust and other small insects from entering the nose.

What is the function of the mucous membrane in the stomach?

Our stomach is lined by a protective layer of mucus called the mucous membrane.

This membrane plays a vital role in:

  • It protects the stomach lining from the harmful effects of excessive exposure to acid or pepsin
  • Acts as a protective barrier and protects bile salts, stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and other macromolecules.

This was an introduction to the mucous membrane.

Stay tuned to BYJU’S Biology for more information related to the mucous membrane, structure, functions, facts, important questions and other concept related topics.


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