A Comparative Study of the Differentiation and Involution of the Mullerian Duct and Wolffian Duct in the Male and Female Fetal Mouse

J Morphol. 1979 Nov;162(2):175-209. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051620203.


The present investigation has examined the ultrastructural differentiation of the genital ducts of both sexes of fetal mice. The emphasis of observations was placed on the phenomenon of morphogenetic cytolysis, particularly during the critical periods of Wolffian duct stabilization and Mullerian duct involution. Both developing and regressing genital ducts evidence extensive cytolysis. Autophagy appears to be the mechanism of morphogenetic changes in the developing male Wolffian duct. Autophagy, heterophagy, and degeneration in situ are all prominent cytolytic activities in female Wollfian duct involution. The developing female Mullerian duct undergoes extensive morphogenetic remodeling by the mechanisms of autophagy, heterophagy, and degeneration in situ. In the male Mullerian duct, autophagy, heterophagy, and degeneration in situ are also prominent. In addition, whole degenerated epithelial cells are extruded from the duct early in regression which may be realted to the transformation of periductal mesenchymal cells into an "epithelioid cell cuff" which does not form around the regressing Wolffian duct. The formation of this mesenchymal condensation surrounding the duct is also accompanied by the protrusion of Mullerian epithelial cell cytoplasm into the mesenchymal cells. These observations may evidence a complex epithelial-mesenchymal interaction occurring during male Mullerian duct involution.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autolysis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Genitalia / embryology*
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Morphogenesis
  • Mullerian Ducts / cytology*
  • Mullerian Ducts / growth & development
  • Mullerian Ducts / ultrastructure
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Differentiation*
  • Testicular Hormones / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Wolffian Ducts / cytology*
  • Wolffian Ducts / ultrastructure


  • Glycoproteins
  • Testicular Hormones