The distribution of estrogen receptors (ER) in developing reproductive organs of male BALB/c mice was determined by3H-estradiol steroid autoradiography. Efferent ductules, urogenital sinus and Wolffian ducts, and their derivatives, the epididymis, ductus deferens, seminal vesicles, coagulating glands, prostate, and bulbouretheral glands (BUGs), were examined from 16 days fetal (gestation = 19-20 days) to 10 days postnatal. All fetal reproductive organs strongly expressed mes-enchymal ER. Stromal cells of these organs remained ER+at later times. However, smooth muscle cells in organs such as the ductus deferens, BUG, prostate, and caudal epididymis were only weakly ER+or ER−after their differentiation from mesenchyme, although fibroblasts interspersed within the smooth muscle remained strongly ER+. Efferent ductules were the first site of epithelial ER expression in the developing male tract; this organ expressed epithelial ER on day 16 of gestation and subsequently. Wolffian ducts and urogenital sinus did not contain epithelial ER on day 16 of gestation. Epididymis began expressing epithelial ER soon after its differentiation, on day 19 of gestation. A clear gradient of ER expression was noted in the regions of the developing epididymis, with the efferent ducts and the initial segment of the epididymis containing 3-fold more silver grains per epithelial cell than more distal regions of the epididymis. Epithelium of the seminal vesicle and coagulating gland was initially ER−, but became weakly ER+at day 6 postnatal and later. The epithelium of all other organs (ductus deferens, prostate, and BUGs) never expressed ER at any time.
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