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Keywords:

  • reproduction;
  • urogenital organ;
  • sex differentiation;
  • growth factors;
  • androgen;
  • hormone;
  • genitalia;
  • appendage development;
  • penis;
  • clitoris;
  • genital tubercle;
  • cloaca;
  • tail;
  • anus

Abstract

External genitalia are anatomical structures located at the posterior embryonic region as part of several urogenital/reproductive organs. The embryonic anlage of the external genitalia, the genital tubercle (GT) develops as a bud-shaped structure with an initial urethral plate and later urethra. Embryonic external genitalia are considered to be one of the appendages. Recent experiments suggest that essential regulatory genes possess similar functions for the outgrowth regulation of the GT and limb appendages. The transient embryonic epithelia located in the distal GT are called the distal urethral epithelium (DUE) regulating, at least in part, the (distal) GT development. This review covers the available data about early patterning of GT and discusses the molecular developmental similarities and points of divergence between the different appendages. Development of the male and female external genitalia is also reviewed. Developmental Dynamics 235:1738–1752, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.