Postnatal development of the reproductive system in the grey short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica.Anat Embryol (Berl). 2004 May; 208(2):121-33.AE
Postnatal phenotypic sex differentiation has been investigated in a laboratory marsupial, Monodelphis domestica, as part of a larger study to resolve apparent discrepancies between eutherian and marsupial mammals. These include the formation of sex-specific structures in marsupials prior to gonadal differentiation and the retention in both sexes of structures which are sex-specific in eutherians. The time-course and nature of differentiation was investigated in 131 specimens ranging in age from the day of birth to 56 days. Patent wolffian ducts extend to the urogenital sinus in both sexes at birth, while müllerian ducts are identified on day 1 and grow in a cranio-caudal direction to reach the urogenital sinus on day 6. The male müllerian duct shows signs of regression at its cranial end on day 10 and throughout its length on day 12; its lumen has completely disappeared by day 15. By this time the epididymis and vas deferens have developed from the wolffian duct; their histological differentiation occurs between days 26 and 56. Prostatic buds are identifiable in tissue surrounding the male urethra on day 14. In the female, the wolffian duct is larger than the müllerian duct until day 14; thereafter the wolffian duct begins to regress at its cranial end, disappearing by day 17, whereas the müllerian duct begins to enlarge, converging with its fellow at the urogenital sinus by day 19. Lateral vaginae, vaginal culs-de-sac, uteri and oviducts have differentiated from the müllerian ducts by day 25. Gonads of both sexes are elongated in shape at birth, attached along the medial aspect of the large mesonephroi in the abdominal cavity. However, from day 3 onwards the testis becomes more rounded than the ovary. Degeneration of the male mesonephros begins about day 10 and is almost completed by day 19; the female mesonephros is still relatively large at day 14 though it too has almost disappeared by day 19. By postnatal day 13 the abdominal phase of testis descent is underway and the inguinal phase begins at day 15. Testes have reached the scrotal sac by day 24 and achieve their final position at the base of the scrotum by day 28. In summary, postnatal reproductive tract development and gonadal descent has been examined in this important biomedical model, where differentiation of the wolffian and müllerian ducts takes place after gonadal differentiation, according to the normal eutherian pattern.