Gastrointestinal Tract - Gall Bladder Development

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Early embryonic gall bladder (Carnegie stage 13, Week 4)

This section of notes gives an overview of gall bladder and hillary tree development, histology and abnormalities associated with the biliary system. In the adult, the gall bladder is a site of bile salt storage and concentration, to then be released into the duodenum where they act to solubilize dietary lipids by their detergent effect. Bile salts are a cholesterol derivative (breakdown product).

The transverse septum differentiates to form the hepatic diverticulum and the hepatic primordium, these two structures together will go on to form different components of the mature liver and gall bladder.

The hepatic diverticulum divides into two parts: pars hepatica (larger cranial part, primordium of the liver) and pars cystica (smaller ventral invagination, primordium of gall bladder).

The pars cystica vacuolates and expands, the stalk becoming the cystic duct. This structure is initially hollow, then solid (by proliferation of epithelial lining), and then recanalized occurs by vacuolation of this expanded epithelium. There are several opinions as to whether the duct has a solid phase or remains patent throughout development.[1][2]

Note that in some animals, for example horse and elephant, the gall bladder is normally absent.

See also: Gall Bladder Histology.

GIT Links: Introduction | Medicine Lecture | Science Lecture | endoderm | mouth | oesophagus | stomach | liver | gallbladder | Pancreas | intestine | mesentery | tongue | taste | enteric nervous system | Stage 13 | Stage 22 | gastrointestinal abnormalities | Movies | Postnatal | milk | tooth | salivary gland | BGD Lecture | BGD Practical | GIT Terms | Category:Gastrointestinal Tract
GIT Histology Links: Upper GIT | Salivary Gland | Smooth Muscle Histology | Liver | Gallbladder | Pancreas | Colon | Histology Stains | Histology | GIT Development
Historic Embryology - Gastrointestinal Tract  
1878 Alimentary Canal | 1882 The Organs of the Inner Germ-Layer The Alimentary Tube with its Appended Organs | 1884 Great omentum and transverse mesocolon | 1902 Meckel's diverticulum | 1902 The Organs of Digestion | 1903 Submaxillary Gland | 1906 Liver | 1907 Development of the Digestive System | 1907 Atlas | 1907 23 Somite Embryo | 1908 Liver | 1908 Liver and Vascular | 1910 Mucous membrane Oesophagus to Small Intestine | 1910 Large intestine and Vermiform process | 1911-13 Intestine and Peritoneum - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Part 6 | 1912 Digestive Tract | 1912 Stomach | 1914 Digestive Tract | 1914 Intestines | 1914 Rectum | 1915 Pharynx | 1915 Intestinal Rotation | 1917 Entodermal Canal | 1918 Anatomy | 1921 Alimentary Tube | 1932 Gall Bladder | 1939 Alimentary Canal Looping | 1940 Duodenum anomalies | 2008 Liver | 2016 GIT Notes | Historic Disclaimer
Human Embryo: 1908 13-14 Somite Embryo | 1921 Liver Suspensory Ligament | 1926 22 Somite Embryo | 1907 23 Somite Embryo | 1937 25 Somite Embryo | 1914 27 Somite Embryo | 1914 Week 7 Embryo
Animal Development: 1913 Chicken | 1951 Frog

Historic: Halpert B. and Lee H. The gall bladder and the extrahepatic biliary passages in late embryonic and early fetal life. (1932) Anat. Rec. 54(1): 29-42.

Some Recent Findings

  • Fate mapping of gallbladder progenitors in posteroventral foregut endoderm of mouse early somite stage embryos[3] "In early embryogenesis, the posteroventral foregut endoderm gives rise to the budding endodermal organs including the liver, ventral pancreas and gallbladder during early somitogenesis. Despite the detailed fate maps of the liver and pancreatic progenitors in the mouse foregut endoderm, the exact location of the gallbladder progenitors remains unclear. In this study, we performed a DiI fate-mapping analysis using whole-embryo cultures of mouse early somite-stage embryos. Here, we show that the majority of gallbladder progenitors in 9-11-somite-stage embryos are located in the lateral-most domain of the foregut endoderm at the first intersomite junction level along the anteroposterior axis. This definition of their location highlights a novel entry point to understanding of the molecular mechanisms of initial specification of the gallbladder."
  • Embryology of the biliary tract[2] "A hepatic diverticulum appears in the ventral wall of the primitive midgut early in the 4th week of intrauterine life in the development of the human embryo. This small diverticulum is the anlage for the development of the liver, extrahepatic biliary ducts, gallbladder, and ventral pancreas. By the 5th week, all elements of the biliary tree are recognizable. Marked elongation of the common duct occurs with plugging of the lumen by epithelial cells. Recanalization of the lumen of the common duct starts at the end of the 5th week and moves slowly distally. By the 6th week, the common duct and ventral pancreatic bud rotate 180 degrees clockwise around the duodenum. Early in the 7th week, the bile and pancreatic ducts end in closed cavities of the duodenum. Between the early 8th and 12th week, hepatopancreatic ducts have both superior and inferior orifices."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Gall Bladder Embryology

<pubmed limit=5>Gall Bladder Embryology</pubmed>

Older papers  
These papers originally appeared in the Some Recent Findings table, but as that list grew in length have now been shuffled down to this collapsible table.

See also the Discussion Page for other references listed by year and References on this current page.

  • Muscularis mucosae versus muscularis propria in gallbladder, cystic duct, and common bile duct: smoothelin and desmin immunohistochemical study[4] "The muscle layer in the cystic duct and common bile duct is not well defined, and it is unresolved whether it represents muscularis mucosae or muscularis propria. ... Based on our findings, we conclude that, in the gallbladder wall, the muscle layer is muscularis propria and there is no muscularis mucosae present. In the cystic duct and common bile duct, only an attenuated and incomplete muscle layer of muscularis mucosae is present; because there is no muscularis propria, there probably is limited contractile function."

Embryonic Development

Stage 13

Stage 13 image 076.jpg

Stage 13 image 077.jpg

Early embryonic gall bladder (Carnegie stage 13, Week 4)

Stage 22

Stage 22 image 084.jpg

Late embryonic gall bladder (Carnegie stage 22, Week 8)


Grosser O. Lewis FT. and McMurrich JP. The Development of the Digestive Tract and of the Organs of Respiration. (1912) chapter 17, vol. 2, in Keibel F. and Mall FP. Manual of Human Embryology II. (1912) J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Gall-bladder Human Embryo (CRL)

  • 7.5 mm - epithelium is surrounded by a layer of mesenchyma, and the entire structure is so imbedded in the under surface of the liver that it causes only a slight swelling of the peritoneal surface. Above and on the sides the mesenchyma is in direct relation with the hepatic trabecular, and it receives a few prolongations of the venous capillaries. Below it is covered by the peritoneal epithelium except on the left, where that layer is reflected to the abdominal walls in connection with the falciform ligament. In later stages the gall-bladder is separated from the hepatic trabecular on either side, and is attached to the liver only along its upper surface.
  • 16 mm mesenchyma surrounding the gall-bladder is still undifferentiated.
  • 22.8 mm forms two broad concentric zones, of which the inner is darker and more compact than the outer.
  • 29 mm certain cells in the peripheral part of the dark zone form a third layer, which is thin and somewhat interrupted. As seen in later stages these cells are myoblasts, so that at 29 mm all three layers of the adult gall-bladder are indicated. These are the mucosa, muscularis, and serosa. The layers become gradually less distinct toward the hepatic duct.



These mainly relate to postnatal infections. Recent studies in the mouse have identified that gastrointestinal tract listeria infections can relocate to the gall bladder and reside there, leading to later reinfection of the gastrointestinal tract.

Links: Bacterial Infection


  1. Crawford JM. (2002). Development of the intrahepatic biliary tree. Semin. Liver Dis. , 22, 213-26. PMID: 12360416 DOI.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ando H. (2010). Embryology of the biliary tract. Dig Surg , 27, 87-9. PMID: 20551648 DOI.
  3. Uemura M, Igarashi H, Ozawa A, Tsunekawa N, Kurohmaru M, Kanai-Azuma M & Kanai Y. (2015). Fate mapping of gallbladder progenitors in posteroventral foregut endoderm of mouse early somite-stage embryos. J. Vet. Med. Sci. , 77, 587-91. PMID: 25648459 DOI.
  4. Raparia K, Zhai QJ, Schwartz MR, Shen SS, Ayala AG & Ro JY. (2010). Muscularis mucosae versus muscularis propria in gallbladder, cystic duct, and common bile duct: smoothelin and desmin immunohistochemical study. Ann Diagn Pathol , 14, 408-12. PMID: 21074688 DOI.


Lemaigre FP. (2010). Molecular mechanisms of biliary development. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci , 97, 103-26. PMID: 21074731 DOI.

Causey MW, Miller S, Fernelius CA, Burgess JR, Brown TA & Newton C. (2010). Gallbladder duplication: evaluation, treatment, and classification. J. Pediatr. Surg. , 45, 443-6. PMID: 20152372 DOI.

Roskams T & Desmet V. (2008). Embryology of extra- and intrahepatic bile ducts, the ductal plate. Anat Rec (Hoboken) , 291, 628-35. PMID: 18484608 DOI.

Bani-Hani KE. (2005). Agenesis of the gallbladder: difficulties in management. J. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. , 20, 671-5. PMID: 15853977 DOI.

Delalande JM, Milla PJ & Burns AJ. (2004). Hepatic nervous system development. Anat Rec A Discov Mol Cell Evol Biol , 280, 848-53. PMID: 15382016 DOI.


Ahmed M & Aurangzeb. (2010). Triplication of gallbladder. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak , 20, 766-7. PMID: 21078254 DOI.

Blidaru D, Blidaru M, Pop C, Crivii C & Seceleanu A. (2010). The common bile duct: size, course, relations. Rom J Morphol Embryol , 51, 141-4. PMID: 20191134

Peloponissios N, Gillet M, Cavin R & Halkic N. (2005). Agenesis of the gallbladder: a dangerously misdiagnosed malformation. World J. Gastroenterol. , 11, 6228-31. PMID: 16273658

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Additional Images

See also Gall Bladder Histology

Chapter XVIII. The Organs of Digestion Keith, A. (1902) Human Embryology and Morphology. London: Edward Arnold.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 20) Embryology Gastrointestinal Tract - Gall Bladder Development. Retrieved from

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