Development of urogenital system in the Spix cavy: A model for studies on sexual differentiation

Amilton Cesar dos Santos, Alan J Conley, Moacir Franco de Oliveira, Antônio Chaves de Assis Neto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study documented, for the first time, the morphological patterns of differentiation of male and female genital organs of Spix cavy (Galea spixii) using histological and ultrastructural analyses, with immuno-localization of steroidogenic enzymes, cytochromes P450 aromatase (P450arom) and 17α-hydroxylase/17, 20-lyase (P450c17), involved in the synthesis of estrogens and androgens respectively throughout fetal sexual development. Undifferentiated gonads of Spix cavy develop into ovaries in females after 25 days of gestation (DG), exhibiting P450arom immunoreactivity. After 25 DG, paramesonephric ducts develop and form oviducts, uterine horns and cranial portion of the vagina. The caudal portion of the vagina originates from the urogenital sinus, and a vaginal closure membrane is present at the end of gestation. Partial channeling of the urethra into the clitoris occurs after 40 DG, but complete channeling never occurs. A preputial meatus emerges near the tip of organ. In males, undifferentiated gonads develop into testes at 25 DG and develop immunoreactivity for P450c17, which is required for androgens synthesis and likely maintenance of mesonephric ducts. Mesonephric ducts develop subsequently, forming the epididymis and ductus deferens. The pelvic urethra develops after 25 DG with channeling into the penis occurring around 30 DG. This is the first morphological study describing the process of sexual differentiation during gestation in a hystricomorph rodent and one of the most comprehensive analyses conducted in any mammal. Male genital organ development follows the general pattern described in other domestic mammals, but does not include formation of the baculum as occurs in mice and rats. In females, clitoral development includes partial canalization by the urethra and development of a preputial meatus. Further studies are required to clarify the mechanisms involved in the differentiative processes described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Caviidae
  • Genital tubercle
  • Hystricomorph
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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