Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 925 - 934 (2009)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.082846yc
© UBC Press

Revisiting old vaginal topics: conversion of the Müllerian vagina and origin of the "sinus" vagina

Yi Cai*

Department of Physiology, The University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN, USA

ABSTRACT Vaginal development has been a longstanding controversy, which hampers studies on vaginal diseases as well as cervical and uterine diseases. Most concerns center on: why is the vaginal epithelium different from the uterine epithelium; and where does the vagina originate from? It is commonly held that the rodent vagina has a dual origin: the cranial part is derived from the Müllerian duct (Müllerian vagina) and the caudal part derived from the urogenital sinus (“sinus” vagina). This concept was deduced from morphological observations. However, it cannot explain the difference between the Müllerian vagina and the uterus. Moreover, accumulating new data from genetic and molecular studies contradicts the urogenital sinus origin of the “sinus” vagina. The present review summarizes previous morphological observations and new findings from genetic and molecular studies, and addresses molecular mechanisms underlying the origin and organogenesis of the vagina in rodents. It provides evidence to show that the whole vagina is derived the Müllerian duct. BMP4 reshapes the intermediate mesoderm-derived Müllerian duct into the vaginal primordium. The latter thus exhibits different features from the uterus, including the stratified squamous epithelium and insensitivity to anti-Müllerian hormone. The “sinus” vagina is formed by extrinsic BMP4-mediated caudal extension of the Müllerian duct. The present review thus shows how a century of controversy over the origin and organogenesis of the vagina has been resolved. This new understanding will provide additional insight into genetic diseases and tumors of the female reproductive tract.

Keywords:

vagina, Mullerian duct, androgen, estrogen, prostate

*Corresponding author e-mail: caiyi219@hotmail.com