The origin of the Mullerian duct in chick and mouse

Dev Biol. 2007 Feb 15;302(2):389-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.09.046. Epub 2006 Oct 3.


In vertebrates the female reproductive tracts derive from a pair of tubular structures called Mullerian ducts, which are composed of three elements: a canalised epithelial tube, mesenchymal cells surrounding the tube and, most externally, coelomic epithelial cells. Since the first description by Johannes Peter Muller in 1830, the origin of the cells making up the Mullerian duct has remained controversial. We report the results from lineage-tracing experiments in chicken and mouse embryos aimed to provide information of the dynamics of Mullerian duct formation. We show that all Mullerian duct components derive from the coelomic epithelium in both species. Our data support a model of a Mullerian epithelial tube derived from an epithelial anlage at the mesonephros anterior end, which then segregates from the epithelium and extends caudal of its own accord, via a process involving rapid cell proliferation. This tube is surrounded by mesenchymal cells derived from local delamination of coelomic epithelium. We exclude any significant influx of cells from the Wolffian duct and also the view of a tube forming by coelomic epithelium invagination along the mesonephros. Our data provide clues of the underlying mechanism of tubulogenesis relevant to both normal and abnormal development of the female reproductive tract.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chick Embryo
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / cytology
  • Genitalia, Female / embryology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mullerian Ducts / cytology
  • Mullerian Ducts / embryology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Wolffian Ducts / cytology
  • Wolffian Ducts / embryology