The cell biology and molecular genetics of Müllerian duct development

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2018 May;7(3):e310. doi: 10.1002/wdev.310. Epub 2018 Jan 19.


The Müllerian ducts are part of the embryonic urogenital system. They give rise to mature structures that serve a critical function in the transport and development of the oocyte and/or embryo. In most vertebrates, both sexes initially develop Müllerian ducts during embryogenesis, but they regress in males under the influence of testis-derived Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH). A number of regulatory factors have been shown to be essential for proper duct development, including Bmp and Wnt signaling molecules, together with homeodomain transcription factors such as PAX2 and LIM1. Later in development, the fate of the ducts diverges between males and females and is regulated by AMH and Wnt signaling molecules (duct regression in males) and Hox genes (duct patterning in females). Most of the genes and molecular pathways known to be involved in Müllerian duct development have been elucidated through animal models, namely, the mouse and chicken. In addition, genetic analysis of humans with reproductive tract disorders has further defined molecular mechanisms of duct formation and differentiation. However, despite our current understanding of Müllerian duct development, some questions remain to be answered at the molecular genetic level. This article is categorized under: Early Embryonic Development > Development to the Basic Body Plan.

Keywords: AMH; Lim1; Mullerian duct; PAX2; Wnt4; Wnt7a; Wnt9b; chicken embryo.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Humans
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mullerian Ducts / cytology
  • Mullerian Ducts / embryology*
  • Mullerian Ducts / metabolism
  • Sex Differentiation*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway


  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins