• oestrogen receptors;
  • clitoris;
  • vaginal introitus;
  • labia

Associate Editor

Michael G. Wyllie

Editorial Board

Ian Eardley, UK

Jean Fourcroy, USA

Sidney Glina, Brazil

Julia Heiman, USA

Chris McMahon, Australia

Bob Millar, UK

Alvaro Morales, Canada

Michael Perelman, USA

Marcel Waldinger, Netherlands


To assess the cellular distributions of oestrogen receptors α and β (ERα and ERβ) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in the labia minora, as knowledge about ER type and function may clarify the role of oestrogens in vaginal scar formation and improve outcomes in female genital surgery.


Labial samples were taken from 10 girls (aged 2–9 years) who underwent surgery for labial fusion. The waste tissue strips obtained were used for immunohistochemical identification of ERα and ERβ, and nNOS in the labia minora.


There was ERα nuclear staining in the stroma of the labia minora close to the clitoris, and basal and suprabasal in the epidermal cells membrane restricted to superficial sections of the labia minora. ERβ was found in the stroma of the labia minora closer to the clitoris and in superficial sections, in the basal epidermal cells membrane and apocrine glandular epithelial cells membrane. There was also ERβ cell membrane staining in the basal and suprabasal epithelial cells and fibroblasts in the lamina propria.


Established ER presence allows the consideration of the introitus of the vagina as a target for oestrogen therapy in various clinical and surgical situations. Continuing elucidation of the immunohistochemistry of this external genital tissue might assist in the development of molecular tools to treat genital abnormalities. Details of this immunohistochemistry may also advance the understanding of the effects of sexual differentiation on the brain and other organ systems.