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Clitoral development in the mouse and human.

  • Author(s): Cunha, Gerald R
  • Liu, Ge
  • Sinclair, Adriane
  • Cao, Mei
  • Baskin, Laurence
  • et al.

The goal of this report is (a) to provide the first detailed description of mouse clitoral development, and (b) to compare mouse and human clitoral development. For this purpose, external genitalia of female mice were examined by wholemount microscopy, histology and immunohistochemistry from 14 days of gestation to 10 days postnatal. Human clitoral development was examined by these techniques as well as by scanning electron microscopy and optical projection tomography from 8 to 19 weeks of gestation. The adult mouse clitoris is an internal organ defined by a U-shaped clitoral lamina whose development is associated with the prenatal medial and distal growth of the female preputial swellings along the sides of the genital tubercle to form the circumferential preputial lamina. Regression of the ventral aspect of the preputial lamina leads to formation of the U-shaped clitoral lamina recognized as early as 17 days of gestation. While the adult U-shaped mouse clitoral lamina is closely associated with the vagina, and it appears to be completely non-responsive to estrogen as opposed to the highly estrogen-responsive vaginal epithelium. The prominent perineal appendage in adult females is prepuce, formed via fusion of the embryonic preputial swellings and is not the clitoris. The human clitoris is in many respects a smaller anatomic version of the human penis having all of the external and internal elements except the urethra. The human clitoris (like the human penis) is derived from the genital tubercle with the clitoral glans projecting into the vaginal vestibule. Adult morphology and developmental processes are virtually non-comparable in the mouse and human clitoris.

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