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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Human glans and preputial development

  • Author(s): Liu, Xin
  • Liu, Ge
  • Shen, Joel
  • Yue, Aaron
  • Isaacson, Dylan
  • Sinclair, Adriane
  • Cao, Mei
  • Liaw, Aron
  • Cunha, Gerald R
  • Baskin, Laurence
  • et al.

The urethra within the human penile shaft develops via (1) an "Opening Zipper" that facilitates distal canalization of the solid urethral plate to form a wide urethral groove and (2) a "Closing Zipper" that facilitates fusion of the epithelial surfaces of the urethral folds. Herein, we extend our knowledge by describing formation of the human urethra within the glans penis as well as development of the prepuce. Forty-eight normal human fetal penile specimens were examined using scanning electron microscopy and optical projection tomography. Serial histologic sections were evaluated for morphology and immunohistochemical localization for epithelial differentiation markers: Cytokeratins 6, 7, 10, FoxA1, uroplakin and the androgen receptor. As the closing zipper completes fusion of the urethral folds within the penile shaft to form a tubular urethra (~ 13 weeks), canalization of the urethral plate continues in proximal to distal fashion into the glans penis to directly form the urethra within the glans without forming an open urethral groove. Initially, the urethral plate is attached ventrally to the epidermis via an epithelial seam, which is remodeled and eliminated, thus establishing mesenchymal confluence ventral to the glanular urethra. The morphogenetic remodeling involves the strategic expression of cytokeratin 7, FoxA1 and uroplakin in endodermal epithelial cells as the tubular glanular urethra forms. The most ventral epithelial cells of the urethral plate are pinched off from the glanular urethra and are reabsorbed into the epidermis ultimately losing expression of their markers, a process undoubtedly regulated by androgens. The prepuce initially forms on the dorsal aspect of the glans at approximately 12 weeks of gestation. After sequential proximal to distal remodeling of the ventral urethral plate along the ventral aspect of glans, the prepuce of epidermal origin fuses in the ventral midline.

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