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Keywords:

  • Skin;
  • Vulva;
  • Sweat glands;
  • Histology;
  • Ultrastructure

Abstract

A newly described type of cutaneous gland occurring in the human anogenital region was investigated in specimens from the vulva by electron microscopy. This gland, which is characterized by a long excretory duct opening at the skin surface, by a wide coiled secretory part with multiple lateral extensions in the form of diverticula and branches lined by a two-layered pseudostratified of myoepithelium, and by a luminal layer of tall columnar cells with conspicuous “snouts”, could not be categorized as an eccrine, apocrine, or mammary gland. Electron microscopy confirmed its separate position by showing that the luminal layer of secretory cells with prominent cytoplasmic caps had elaborately folded lateral membranes, occasional canaliculi, and a large number of uniform electron-lucent to moderately electron-dense secretory granules as part of a probable merocrine secretion. The excetory duct showed a poorly developed cuticular border. This combination of ultra-structural features is alien to the other tubular cutaneous glands. The function of this anogenital “sweat” gland remains obscure, but the presence of these granules suggests a secretion product that is different from that of other cutaneous glands. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.