Development of the penile urethra in the tammar wallaby

M. W. Leihy, G. Shaw, J. D. Wilson, M. B. Renfree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Hypospadias is increasingly common, and requires surgery to repair, but its aetiology is poorly understood. The marsupial tammar wallaby provides a unique opportunity to study hypospadias because penile differentiation occurs postnatally. Androgens are responsible for penile development in the tammar, but the majority of differentiation, in particular formation and closure of the urethral groove forming the penile urethra in males, occurs when there is no measurable sex difference in the concentrations of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone or androstanediol in either the gonads or the circulation. Phalluses were examined morphologically from the sexually indifferent period (when androgens are high) to well after the time that the phallus becomes sexually dimorphic. We show that penile development and critical changes in the positioning of the urethra occur in the male phallus begin during an early window of time when androgens are high. Remodelling of the urethra in the male occurs between days 20-60. The critical period of time for the establishment urethral closure occurs during the earliest phases of penile development. This study suggests that there is an early window of time before day 60 when androgen imprinting must occur for normal penile development and closure of the urethral groove.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalSexual Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Androgens
  • Hypospadias
  • Marsupial
  • Phallus
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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