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Androgen-independent events in penile development in humans and animals.


The common view on penile development is that it is androgen-dependent, based first and foremost on the fact that the genital tubercle forms a penis in males and a clitoris in females. However, critical examination of the complex processes involved in human penile development reveals that many individual steps in development of the genital tubercle are common to both males and females, and thus can be interpreted as androgen-independent. For certain developmental events this conclusion is bolstered by observations in androgen-insensitive patients and androgen receptor mutant mice. Events in genital tubercle development that are common to human males and females include: formation of (a) the genital tubercle, (b) the urethral plate, (c) the urethral groove, (d) the glans, (e) the prepuce and (f) the corporal body. For humans 6 of 13 individual developmental steps in penile development were interpreted as androgen-independent. For mice 5 of 11 individual developmental steps were found to be androgen-independent, which were verified through analysis of androgen-insensitive mutants. Observations from development of external genitalia of other species (moles and spotted hyena) provide further examples of androgen-independent events in penile development. These observations support the counter-intuitive idea that penile development involves both androgen-independent and androgen-dependent processes.

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