Morphology of the external genitalia of the adult male and female mice as an endpoint of sex differentiation

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 May 6;354(1-2):94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.08.009. Epub 2011 Aug 27.


Adult external genitalia (ExG) are the endpoints of normal sex differentiation. Detailed morphometric analysis and comparison of adult mouse ExG has revealed 10 homologous features distinguishing the penis and clitoris that define masculine vs. feminine sex differentiation. These features have enabled the construction of a simple metric to evaluate various intersex conditions in mutant or hormonally manipulated mice. This review focuses on the morphology of the adult mouse penis and clitoris through detailed analysis of histologic sections, scanning electron microscopy, and three-dimensional reconstruction. We also present previous results from evaluation of "non-traditional" mammals, such as the spotted hyena and wallaby to demonstrate the complex process of sex differentiation that involves not only androgen-dependent processes, but also estrogen-dependent and hormone-independent mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clitoris / anatomy & histology*
  • Clitoris / growth & development
  • Clitoris / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Penis / anatomy & histology*
  • Penis / growth & development
  • Penis / ultrastructure
  • Sex Differentiation*