Müllerian inhibiting substance: an instructive developmental hormone with diagnostic and possible therapeutic applications

Endocr Rev. 2001 Oct;22(5):657-74. doi: 10.1210/edrv.22.5.0445.


Dr. Alfred Jost pioneered the field of reproductive endocrinology with his seminal observation that two hormones produced by the testes are required for the male embryo to develop a normal internal reproductive tract. T induces the Wolffian ducts to differentiate into epididymides, vasa deferens, and seminal vesicles. Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) causes regression of the Müllerian ducts, which in its absence would normally develop into the Fallopian tubes, uterus, and upper vagina as is observed in female embryos. This review will summarize our current understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying the function of MIS both as a fetal gonadal hormone that causes Müllerian duct regression and as an adult hormone, the roles for which are currently being investigated, i.e., inhibition of steroidogenesis, germ cell development, and cancer. We will also address the regulation of MIS expression as one of the first genes expressed after the commitment of the bipotential gonads to differentiate into testes under the influence of SRY, the gene on the sex-determining region of the Y chromosome. We will discuss what is known regarding MIS signal transduction, which as with other members of the TGFbeta family of growth and differentiation factors, occurs through a heteromeric complex of single transmembrane serine/threonine kinase receptors to effect downstream signaling events, including Smad, nuclear factor-kappaB, beta-catenin, and p16 activation. Finally, we will assess the clinical relevance of studying MIS in patients with persistent Müllerian duct syndrome and our efforts to determine the therapeutic value of MIS for patients with ovarian and other MIS receptor-expressing cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone
  • Diagnosis
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Glycoproteins*
  • Growth Inhibitors / blood
  • Growth Inhibitors / physiology*
  • Growth Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Testicular Hormones / blood
  • Testicular Hormones / physiology*
  • Testicular Hormones / therapeutic use


  • Glycoproteins
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Testicular Hormones
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone