Integumentary System - Gland Development

From Embryology
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The secretory glands associated with the integumentary system have similar embryonic origins and mechanisms of development, though are specialised by their locations and secretions. A key process and feature of all gland development is an epithelial-mesenchymal interaction(s). Gland secretion can also be regulated by a number of different mechanisms, including endocrine changes postnatally at puberty and during pregnancy.

The mammary gland development is covered in detail on a separate notes page.

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1906 Papillary ridges | 1910 Manual of Human Embryology | 1914 Integumentary | 1923 Head Subcutaneous Plexus | 1921 Text-Book of Embryology | 1924 Developmental Anatomy | 1941 Skin Sensory | Historic Disclaimer

Some Recent Findings

  • Hormones and the pilosebaceous unit [1] "The skin, especially the pilosebaceous unit, can be regarded as an endocrine organ meanwhile a target of hormones, because it synthesizes miscellaneous hormones and expresses diverse hormone receptors."


  • Human Embryology (2nd ed.) Larson Chapter 14 p443-455
  • The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed.) Moore and Persaud Chapter 20: P513-529
  • Before We Are Born (5th ed.) Moore and Persaud Chapter 21: P481-496
  • Essentials of Human Embryology Larson Chapter 14: P303-315
  • Human Embryology, Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald
  • Color Atlas of Clinical Embryology Moore Persaud and Shiota Chapter 15: p231-236

Development of Glands

Two main surface types, sweat and sebaceous, with a number of specialized glands in integumentary regions (lacrimal, Meibomian).

  • both ectodermal in origin
  • form as ingrowth of ectoderm into the mesoderm

Sweat Gland

  • mostly eccrine some apocrine
  • apocrine in axilla, pubic and nipple regions
    • see also mammary gland development

Sebaceous Gland

thumb|Adult skin sebaceous gland histology

  • associated with hair development
  • except plans penis and labia minora
  • these glands secrete vernix

Vernix Caseosa

(vernix, Latin, vernix = varnish, caseous = cheese=like) This is a specialized coating that forms in late development over the entire fetal surface. The main component, secreted sebum, is secreted by sebaceous glands. The other constituents are cells sloughed off the fetus's skin, and shed lanugo hair. The coating also has a high water content (80%) largely compartmentalized within fetal corneocytes (cells forming the stratum corneum). [2]

This coating develops intially in a cranio-caudal direction and can be absent in preterm infants.

Some functions include:

  • protection of the fetal skin from extraembryonic fluids amnion, urine
  • providing a slippery surface helps with parturition (birth)
  • acting as a biofilm barrier against infection

Lacrimal Glands

Lacrimal glands produce the aqueous tears that mix with Meibomian glands secretions to form a tear film coating the outer surface of the eye.

Meibomian Glands

The Meibomian glands (glandulae tarsales) are sebaceous glands located at the margins of the upper and lower eyelids of humans and mammals.[3] The glands were first described in 1666 by Heinrich Meibom (1638 - 1700) a German physician and anatomist. The glands produce constantly a lipid-rich secretion (meibum) that mix with with aqueous tears produced by lacrimal glands.


vernix caseosa peritonitis

Not an abnormality of development, but a clinical term for a rare post-caesarean section complication due to spilt vernix caseosa at the time of caesarean section mediating a maternal inflammatory reaction.[4]


  1. <pubmed>20224689</pubmed>
  2. <pubmed>11069626</pubmed>
  3. <pubmed>19660571</pubmed>
  4. <pubmed>19208257</pubmed>



<pubmed>20565255</pubmed> <pubmed>20484386</pubmed> <pubmed>19889198</pubmed> <pubmed>19020961</pubmed>


<pubmed>19881987</pubmed> <pubmed>16179970</pubmed>

Search PubMed

Search Pubmed: Epithelial Gland Development | Sweat Gland Development | Sebaceous Gland Development | Eccrine Gland Development | Apocrine Gland Development

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2020, October 20) Embryology Integumentary System - Gland Development. Retrieved from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2020, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G