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Development of the genital ducts and external genitalia in the early human embryo

Authors


  • Correction made after online publication: 24 September 2010. Author's name in the header was amended.

Dr Yasmin Sajjad, Consultant Gynaecologist and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, St Mary's Hospital Manchester, Whitworth Park, Manchester, M13 0JH, UK. Email: y.sajjad@btinternet.com

Abstract

The course of development of the human genital tract is undifferentiated to the 9th week of development. At this time two symmetrical paired ducts known as the mesonephric (MD) and paramesonephric ducts (PMD) are present, which together with the urogenital sinus provide the tissue sources for internal and external genital development. Normal differentiation of the bipotential external genitalia and reproductive ducts are dependent upon the presence or absence of certain hormones. Masculinization of the internal and external genitalia during fetal development depends on the existence of two discrete testicular hormones. Testosterone secreted from Leydig cells induces the differentiation of the mesonephric ducts into the epididymis, vasa deferentia and seminal vesicles, whereas anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) produced by Sertoli cells induces the regression of the paramesonephric ducts. The absence of AMH action in early fetal life results in the formation of the fallopian tubes, uterus and upper third of the vagina. In some target tissues, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone, which is responsible for the masculinization of the urogenital sinus and external genitalia.

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