The development of the cloaca in the human embryo

Nutmethee Kruepunga, Jill P. J. M. Hikspoors, Hayelom K. Mekonen, Greet M. C. Mommen, Krai Meemon, Wattana Weerachatyanukul, Somluk Asuvapongpatana, S. Eleonore Kohler, Wouter H. Lamers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Subdivision of cloaca into urogenital and anorectal passages has remained controversial because of disagreements about the identity and role of the septum developing between both passages. This study aimed to clarify the development of the cloaca using a quantitative 3D morphological approach in human embryos of 4-10 post-fertilisation weeks. Embryos were visualised with Amira 3D-reconstruction and Cinema 4D-remodelling software. Distances between landmarks were computed with Amira3D software. Our main finding was a pronounced difference in growth between rapidly expanding central and ventral parts, and slowly or non-growing cranial and dorsal parts. The entrance of the Wolffian duct into the cloaca proved a stable landmark that remained linked to the position of vertebra S3. Suppressed growth in the cranial cloaca resulted in an apparent craniodorsal migration of the entrance of the Wolffian duct, while suppressed growth in the dorsal cloaca changed the entrance of the hindgut from cranial to dorsal on the cloaca. Transformation of this 'end-to-end' into an 'end-to-side' junction produced temporary 'lateral (Rathke's) folds'. The persistent difference in dorsoventral growth straightened the embryonic caudal body axis and concomitantly extended the frontally oriented 'urorectal (Tourneux's) septum' caudally between the ventral urogenital and dorsal anorectal parts of the cloaca. The dorsoventral growth difference also divided the cloacal membrane into a well-developed ventral urethral plate and a thin dorsal cloacal membrane proper, which ruptured at 6.5 weeks. The expansion of the pericloacal mesenchyme followed the dorsoventral growth difference and produced the genital tubercle. Dysregulation of dorsal cloacal development is probably an important cause of anorectal malformations: too little regressive development may result in anorectal agenesis, and too much regression in stenosis or atresia of the remaining part of the dorsal cloaca.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-739
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Volume233
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Keywords

  • 3D morphometry
  • anorectum
  • bladder
  • urogenital sinus
  • urorectal septum
  • ANORECTAL-MALFORMATIONS
  • EXTERNAL GENITALIA
  • DISTAL URETHRA
  • SONIC HEDGEHOG
  • SEPTATION
  • APOPTOSIS
  • MOUSE
  • BLADDER
  • ORIGIN
  • PLATE

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