Because both androgens and estrogens have been implicated in penile morphogenesis, we evaluated penile morphology in transgenic mice with known imbalance of androgen and estrogen signaling using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), histology, and immunohistochemistry of androgen and estrogen receptors α/β. Penises of adult wild-type, estrogen receptor-α knockout (αERKO), estrogen receptor-β knockout (βERKO), aromatase knockout (Arom-KO), and aromatase overexpression (Arom+) mice were evaluated, as well as adult mice treated with diethylstilbestrol (DES) from birth to day 10. Adult penises were examined because the adult pattern is the endpoint of development. The urethral orifice is formed by fusion of the MUMP (male urogenital mating protuberance) with the MUMP ridge, which consists of several processes fused to each other and to the MUMP. Similarly, the internal prepuce is completed ventrally by fusion of a ventral cleft. In adult murine penises the stromal processes that form the MUMP ridge are separated from their neighbors by clefts. αERKO, βERKO, and Arom-KO mice have penises with a MUMP ridge clefting pattern similar to that of wild-type mice. In contrast, Arom+ mice and neonatally DES-treated mice exhibit profound malformations of the MUMP, MUMP ridge clefting pattern, and internal prepuce. Abnormalities observed in Arom+ and neonatally DES-treated mice correlate with the expression of estrogen receptor-beta (ERβ) in the affected structures. This study demonstrates that formation of the urethal orifice and internal prepuce is due to fusion of separate epithelial-surfaced mesenchymal elements, a process dependent upon both androgen and estrogen signaling, in which ERβ signaling is strongly implicated.
- Androgen receptor
- Estrogen receptor
- Mouse penis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics