Regulation of testicular descent

Pediatr Surg Int. 2015 Apr;31(4):317-25. doi: 10.1007/s00383-015-3673-4. Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Testicular descent occurs in two morphologically distinct phases, each under different hormonal control from the testis itself. The first phase occurs between 8 and 15 weeks when insulin-like hormone 3 (Insl3) from the Leydig cells stimulates the gubernaculum to swell, thereby anchoring the testis near the future inguinal canal as the foetus grows. Testosterone causes regression of the cranial suspensory ligament to augment the transabdominal phase. The second, or inguinoscrotal phase, occurs between 25 and 35 weeks, when the gubernaculum bulges out of the external ring and migrates to the scrotum, all under control of testosterone. However, androgen acts mostly indirectly via the genitofemoral nerve (GFN), which produces calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) to control the direction of migration. In animal models the androgen receptors are in the inguinoscrotal fat pad, which probably produces a neurotrophin to masculinise the GFN sensory fibres that regulate gubernacular migration. There is little direct evidence that this same process occurs in humans, but CGRP can regulate closure of the processus vaginalis in inguinal hernia, confirming that the GFN probably mediates human testicular descent by a similar mechanism as seen in rodent models. Despite increased understanding about normal testicular descent, the common causes of cryptorchidism remain elusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cryptorchidism / etiology
  • Cryptorchidism / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inguinal Canal / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Testis / anatomy & histology*
  • Testis / physiology*