Paper - Hermaphroditism in a mole with male external genitals (1924)

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Brown KR. Hermaphroditism in a mole with male external genitals. (1924) J Anat. 58: 355-358. PMID 17104029

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This 1924 paper by Brown describes abnormal genital development in the mole.

Modern Notes: genital abnormalities

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Historic Embryology - Genital 
General: 1901 Urinogenital Tract | 1902 The Uro-Genital System | 1904 Ovary and Testis | 1912 Urinogenital Organ Development | 1914 External Genitalia | 1921 Urogenital Development | 1921 External Genital | 1942 Sex Cords | 1953 Germ Cells | Historic Embryology Papers | Historic Disclaimer
Female: 1904 Ovary and Testis | 1904 Hymen | 1912 Urinogenital Organ Development | 1914 External Genitalia | 1914 Female | 1921 External Genital | 1927 Female Foetus 15 cm | 1927 Vagina | 1932 Postnatal Ovary
Male: 1887-88 Testis | 1904 Ovary and Testis | 1904 Leydig Cells | 1906 Testis vascular | 1909 Prostate | 1912 Prostate | 1914 External Genitalia | 1915 Cowper’s and Bartholin’s Glands | 1920 Wolffian tubules | 1935 Prepuce | 1935 Wolffian Duct | 1942 Sex Cords | 1943 Testes Descent | Historic Embryology Papers | Historic Disclaimer
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Hermaphroditism in a Mole with Male External Genitals

By Katharine Rounsfell Brown, From the Institute of Physiology, Glasgow University.

The oceurrence of a mixed sex gland in mammals is sufficiently rare to warrant this record of a case, although several instances of such hermaphroditism have been recorded.

Krediet (1,2) described the occurrence of an ovo-testis in a goat with female genitalia, but marked male characters of head and sexual behaviour. And in a later paper he describes a case, also with female secondary characters, in which the left gonad was a testis and the right an ovo-testis.

Sand (3) recorded the case of a boy (?) in whom the presence of gonads, on the right an ovary, and on the left an ovo-testis, were determined.

Crew (4,5,6,7) has recently published notes of several cases in domestic animals, frogs and fowls. In those instances where there were definitely mixed sex glands, the noteworthy point has been that the animal had developed the sex characters relating to the gland whose functional tissues were the more predominant; in nearly every case this was a testis. Also, as a rule, the testicular tissue showed signs of activity, mitosis being present, and often spermatogenesis. More especially was this marked in animals with male external genitals.

The ovo-testis to be described occurred in a mole with male external genitals, killed in October, 1920, and forming one of a series used by Mr Watson(s) in the study of the suprarenals during the oestrous cycle. The intestines had been removed and the animal skinned and preserved before reaching the laboratory, so that more detailed examination was impossible. The animal was small, and sections of the tibial epiphyses were made, in an attempt to ascertain the age of the animal, As they were ossified it may be concluded that the animal was not a young one.

The penis was well developed and normal to naked eye inspection, the prostatic swelling was present, though small. There was no sign of a vaginal orifice, or of any female internal genitalia. The apparent testes lay in the abdominal cavity, outside the pelvis, and they were attached to the posterior abdominal wall by a mesentery containing blood vessels. The connections with the genito-urinary system had been destroyed in removing the organs. No seminal vesicles were found.

Behind the bladder and opening into the urethra posteriorly were the remains of a tube, present also in the normal animal, but differing slightly microscopically. The mucous membrane lining both was thrown into folds. 356 K. R. Brown

In the hermaphrodite these were covered by columnar epithelium not present in the normal mole. The scent glands in the flanks of this animal were less prominent than in the normal adult mole, and there were no scrotal pouches. The gonads were the normal size noted for testes during October.

In each the ovarian tissue formed a crescentic strip applied to one side of the organ. On the right side it formed one-sixth of the circumference with breadth -19 mm., the diameter of the whole gland being 4-25 mm. On this side the ovarian portion did not extend to either pole. On the left side it formed one quarter of the circumference; the diameter of the gland was 3-7 mm. and that of the ovarian part -59 mm. Here the ovarian tissue formed one pole of the organ, and isolated follicles appeared among the cells of the testicular part (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.

On the right side the oval organ was composed of densely packed cells, except in the centre where the tissue was rarified. The ovarian portion was covered by germinal epithelium, and was composed of Graafian follicles in early stages of development, embedded in a spindle-celled stroma (fig. 3).

The main mass of the organ had a fibrous tissue capsule, and was composed of two types of cells, the A type being large pale-staining cells with granular cytoplasm and large oval nuclei. These cells were distributed in groups of six to ten, best seen in the more rarified central portion. They had the appearance and to some extent the arrangement of tubular cells, but neither basement membrane nor lumen was present in any group (fig. 2).

The B type of cells were also large, with less granular cytoplasm, and smaller dark-staining nuclei. These cells formed the bulk of the section, and they closely resembled normal interstitial cells.

In sections stained for fats by Sudan III and also by Nile Blue Sulphate the A type of cells did not take up the stain, whereas those of the B type showed a marked lipoid content. In a control section taken from a normal male killed at the same time, the tubular cells did not stain, but the interstitial cells show a staining reaction equal to that of the B cells.

The line of separation between the two portions was definite, and in it were several large blood-vessels.

Lying alongside the ovarian portion was a tube, oval in transverse section, whose appearance suggested that it was a Fallopian tube, but its ultimate destination was unknown (fig. 4). Against the opposite side of the same organ lay another tube, composed of a single layer of cubical cells with spindle-shaped nuclei. This tube was like the inner coat of a vas deferens, lacking its muscular wall.

Fig. 3.

The left organ was round and smaller than the right one; as in the other, the ovarian portion was covered by germinal epithelium, and contained many immature follicles. The testicular part contained both 4 and B types of cells, but here the A cells were less numerous and more scattered, and there was very little evidence of any attempt at tubule formation.

On this side the line of demarcation contained some fibrous tissue in addition to blood vessels. No accompanying tubes were found.

The interesting feature of this case is that the mole was to all appearances masculine, although somewhat small, while the testicular part of the gland was non-developed, as far as the tubules were concerned. The ovarian portion, on the other hand, was composed of healthy, normal-looking follicles.

All investigations, from the early observations of Shattock and Seligman, 358 , K. R. Brown

show that it is the interstitial cells of the testis that constitute the puberty gland, and determine the development of male secondary characters. In this animal these cells were well developed and formed a mass far in excess of the ovarian part of the gland. To this may be ascribed the development of the male secondary sexual characters.

I thank Professor Noél Paton and Mr Watson for the encouragement and help they have given me in the carrying out of this work.


(1) Krepret. “Ovariotestes bei der Ziege.” Biol. Zent. vol. x11, p. 447, 1921. (2) —— Anat. Anz. Bd. tv, p. 502, 1922.

(3) Sanp. Skand. Arch. f. Phys. Bd. xiv, p. 59, 1923.

(4) Crew. “Sex Reversal in Fowls.” Proc. Roy. Soc. B, vol. xcv, 1923.

(5) —— “Sex Reversal in Frogs and Toads,” Journ. Genet. vol. x1, p. 2. Sept. 1921.

(6) “A Description of Certain Abnormalities of the Reproductive System of the Frog.” Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. xx, p. 5, 1921.

(7) —— “A Peculiar Type of Developmental Intersexuality in the Male of Domesticated Mammals.” Proc. Roy. Soc. B, vol. xcv, 1923.

(8) Watson. Journal of Physiology, vol. Lvmt, p. 240, 1923.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2021, June 22) Embryology Paper - Hermaphroditism in a mole with male external genitals (1924). Retrieved from

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