Regulation of Wolffian duct development

Horm Res. 2007;67(3):142-51. doi: 10.1159/000096644. Epub 2006 Oct 25.


Wolffian ducts (WDs) are the embryonic structures that form the male internal genitalia. These ducts develop in both the male and female embryo. However, in the female they subsequently regress, whereas in the male they are stabilised by testosterone. The WDs then develop into separate but contiguous organs, the epididymis, vas deferens and seminal vesicles. Recently, considerable progress has been made in identifying genes that are involved in these different stages of development which is described in this review. In addition, WD development in (atypical forms of) cystic fibrosis and intersex disorders, such as the complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency and LH-receptor defects, is discussed. The apparent increase in male reproductive tract disorders is briefly discussed from the perspective of the potential endocrine-disrupting effects of the numerous chemicals in the environment to which the developing male foetus can be exposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Sexual Development / drug effects
  • Sexual Development / genetics
  • Sexual Development / physiology*
  • Wolffian Ducts / cytology
  • Wolffian Ducts / embryology*


  • Androgens
  • Endocrine Disruptors