Papillae of Tongue are the tiny raised protrusions found on the surface of the tongue which house the taste buds which help in taste perception detecting taste elements such as salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami. The papillae are of four types which differ in location and size of the papillae namely Fungiform papillae, Filiform papillae, Foliate Papillae and Circumvalate Papillae.
Taste buds work by receiving the food dissolved by saliva through small pores on top of the receptor cells sending the information detected by clusters of receptors and ion channels to the gustatory area of the brain through seventh, ninth and tenth cranial nerves.
Let us look at each of the four types of papillae in detail explaining their location, shape and histology in detail.
These are the most numerous papillae seen on the surface of the tongue and are hair like or thread like in appearance projecting out from the dorsal surface of the tongue and are seen on the front two thirds of the tongue. Filiform papillae do not contain Taste Buds in them. Histologically these papillae have a cone shaped appearance which is lined by stratified squamous epithelium having thick keratin on the surface. The blood vessels are supported by the central core of the connective tissue. The epithelium contains secondary processes.
The papillae are arranged in rows parallel to the sulcus terminalis all over but at the tip of the tongue the rows become more traverse. These contain elastic fibers to make them more elastic compared to other types of papillae.
As the name suggests these are fungus like papillae having dome shaped structures projecting above the surface of the tongue. The Fungiform papillae are located in between the Filiform papillae but mostly seen in the tip and sides of the tongue. Unlike the Filiform papillae these have taste buds on their upper surface. These papillae come with around 1600 taste buds.
Coming to the Histology aspect the epithelium covering the fungiform papillae is thin non keratinized stratified squamous epithelium giving the reddish color to the papillae. The supporting connective tissue shows collagen fibers, fibroblasts and blood vessels. The fungiform papillae are innervated by the seventh cranial nerve via the sub-mandibular ganglion, chorda tympani and geniculate ganglion ascending to the solitary nucleus in the brain stem.
These are also called as Vallate papillae which are dome shaped structures located anterior to the foramen cecum and sulcus terminalis. The papillae form a row on either side, two rows run backwards and medially meeting in the midline. The papillae has the shape of a truncated cone with the smaller end being directed downward and attached to the tongue, the broader part or base projecting a little above the surface of the tongue has numerous secondary papillae.
The papillae are 10 to 12 in number and are the least in number but the largest in size compared to the other three types of papillae found, these papillae contain around 250 taste buds. The papillae are separated from the surface of the tongue with a ‘V’ shaped sulcus located around the papillae. Coming to the Histology, it is lined by keratinized stratified squamous epithelium at the superficial surface and non-keratinized epithelium on the lateral surface, taste buds are seen on this lateral surface. The central portion of the papillae has connective tissue. The papillae not just contain taste buds but also come with serous minor salivary glands or von Ebner’s glands located beneath the connective tissue. The main purpose of the salivary glands is to flush out food debris from the ‘V’ shaped trough around the papillae.
These papillae are located just in front of the V of vallate papillae, they are clustered into two groups on each side of the tongue. These contain taste buds and they get their name because of the shape which is an elongated fold that looks like a leaf seen from edge-on.
Along with Circumvallate papillae and Fungiform papillae, these contain taste buds in their walls, these papillae are innervated by facial nerve supplying to the anterior papillae and the glossopharyngeal nerve to the posterior papillae. Beneath these are the Serous Glands of Von Ebner. The foliate papillae contain 1000 taste buds.
Alex Yong says
A nice overview of the anatomy of tongue, Thanks for sharing.
Fungiform and filiform are supplied by chorda tympani whereas circumvallate and foliate by glossopharyngeal. All have taste function except filiform
You didn’t list Vallete papillae, Please add that.
Circumvallate or Vallate Papailla are the same, I have mentioned about it in the post.
Do humans have foliate papillae? Is there any other papillae in other organisms other than the four mentioned above?
Thanks for the post.
Any animal in particular you are talking about.
Zeal talaviya says
Is fugiform papillae is known as simplisis papillia also ?
Our teacher taught us !
I could not find any reference to Fungiform papillae being called as Simplisis papillae. Can you find any source or reference to this from your teacher so that we can add it to the post.
is failed root canal treatment which is one of them short and thee other is not done properly causing an infection in the canals. my quoestion is, is these effection the tongue colour and mouth taste. many thanks
Yes, under obturation can be a problem and a re infection of the tooth can result in slight yellowish discoloration of the tongue. If you do not have any tooth pain and only seeing tongue discoloration or if there is any other color change of your tongue you should get it checked immediately.
Marilyn Napier says
I think i have circumvallate Papailla, i think. I have asked two doctors to look into the back of my throat and they say its normal. Why then is there this at the back of my tongue..it is circum and sort of looks like little tiny flag (description, not an actual flag, lol). Is there something wrong with me, am I sick, is it cancer? it does bother me, especially when i eat or drink, because i start coughing after i eat or drink. So can you at least give me an answer or suggestion to what it may be, or is there really nothing to worry about….
Circumvallate are normally present on any persons tongue, they are slightly elevated from the surface of the tongue as compared to other papillae which is normal.
If you are having the problem of feeling discomfort and you get cough while eating or drinking it might due to Enlarged tonsils which is sometimes seen to increase the size of the papillae.
princess rahab says
wow!thanks a lot,I’ve learnt something great!!!
princess rahab says
but Dr.why is it that my tongue has some black dots at the anterior part of it?
It is quite normal, those are taste buds which on repeated exposure to heat. If you are having a burning sensation in the front of your tongue, you need to get it checked or else it is quite norma.
What is the exact colour of fungiform papillae and circumvallate papillae???
Healthy Fungiform and Circumvallate papillae are generally in Red color. In case of any infection of fever etc the color will be pale in color or white.
what should i do if my vallte papilae is enalrged and its been 5mos ive been by two doctors but they always say its normal what should i do ?? am i sick please asnwer ??
Vallate papillae are usually enlarged if there is any infection – Throat infection or any systemic Viral infection. In some cases if the oral hygiene is bad you can see enlarged Vallate papillae.
Hello doctor ,
It’s ok can I get your email add I just want to ask some questions.thank you
The number of taste buds are per papilla or all together?
1600 for fungiform?
250 for vallate?
They are on the whole, the Vallate papilla are arranged in the back of the tongue in a V shaped manner and they are few around 250. The filliform papillae are numerous whereas the Fungiform and Vallate are less in number.
Shaikh arzoo says
Is foliate papillae vestigeal in human
Cecilia Soler says
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge !!
So I just notice these bumps on back of my tongue since I recently had all my teeth removed and same day dentures.
Hello mr Varun
I have small pumps on the back of tongue ,, I went to several hospitals . they are saying that there is no cure for that , it’s not painfull, I even some times can’t feel it , but it’s annoying me and I think its papilae although doctors told me the same ,, what i have to
Those are Circumvallate papillae and in some people they enlarge without any reason, there is nothing to worry about. All you have to do is keep your tongue clean by using a tongue cleaner daily and gargle with salt water for a few days to see if they decrease in size (which only happens if they are inflammed).
My mother have papillaes on back of the tongue from last 10 years .please tell me the medicine.
Papillaes are normal at the back of the tongue, they are called Circumvallate papillae and they do not mean there is some disease. It is important to make sure that your mother keeps the tongue clean.
Shubham sharma says
These are seriously the post that helps the students who preparing for neet and got doubts they helps us a lot thanks for doing this.?
You are most welcome
Lelethu Cekiso says
Thank you Doc.
I have one question though. Do they all serve the same function( That being just for taste) or do they differ in the functions they serve?
hi doc, thank you very much for the information.
I have a question, would the number of papillae to differ across the different regions of the tongue?
Yes, number of papillae differ based on type and location on the tongue. As the different papillae are situated on different regions of the tongue, their number differ.
Can you give you mail id
Dr Khurram says
What is differential diagnosis of black tongue??
Dr Khurram says
What is differential diagnosis of black tongue?? kindly explain
Geographic tongue, Black hairy tongue, Certain Antibiotics, Bismuth, Food substances taken (not cleaned properly) etc.
Hairy Tongue, Geographic tongue, Bismuth staining, Antibiotics, Food coloring
Jyotirmayee mandal says
Sir which 1 is d largest papillae
The largest papillae are the Circumvallate papillae
Is it fungiform papillae are found on middle of tongue on median sulcus?
Function of foliate please
Ntuthu Mbiyo says
Hi Doc, I had Covid tongue in Dec 2021. To date my tongue is growing papillae every week and they get sore and sensitive the first day they come out. Is it normal ? My sense of taste is also not fully back yet.I sometimes have a bitter base in my tongue to an extent that even water tastes bitter. Am I gonna be fine ? I’m scared !
Are the papillae constantly enlarged or do they get back to their original size after a couple of days ? In some cases it can be Hairy Tongue, which can cause the bitter taste and soreness and sensitivity. Or it can be a simple case of Vitamin Deficiency which can lead to such a condition. Also make sure to keep your tongue clean everyday and use Salt water gargling.