Urethral glands of Littré
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The urethral glands of Littré, often shortened to just the glands of Littré, and also known as the glands of Morgagni or intramural glands of the urethra (TA: glandulae urethrales masculinae), are small glands located in the mucosa of the anterior male urethra which secrete mucus.
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The urethral glands of Littré have been given a variety of names over the years, including the glands of Morgagni, intramural glands of the urethra, and periurethral/paraurethral glands of Littre 8,10.
The small urethral glands of Littré are located solely along the course of the anterior male urethra, i.e. the bulbous and penile urethras. They are found in the largest quantities in the vicinity of the urethral bulb, but in fact are present all the way to the external urethral meatus 4.
The glands are comprised of cuboidal epithelium formed into ramifying ducts and small terminal sacs or alveoli, hence their characterization as ramified tubuloalveolar glands 8. These glands bear histological similarities with the female paraurethral Skene glands. The glands are found deep in the lamina propria in close proximity to the erectile tissues 10.
The glands secrete mucus into the urethra and probably also contribute to the formation of semen 4,8.
The glands of Littré may be seen on a retrograde (ascending) urethrogram as tiny linear pools of contrast lying in the same orientation as, and filling from, the superior aspect of the penile urethra 5. Visualization of the glands is more common in those with pathology such as chronic infection or a stricture of the urethra 5.
Ultrasonography of calculi of the glands of Littré has been described along with secondary glandular infection 4.
The epithelium of the urogenital sinus gives rise to the glands of Littré, and also both the prostate and bulbourethral glands, which share the same embryological origin 10.
History and etymology
The glands of Littré were originally described by the French anatomist and surgeon Alexis Littré (1658-1726), who worked in Paris in 1719 3.
- littréitis 6
- calculi 4
- cysts 9
- carcinoma of the Littré glands: very rare 7
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- 5. Amis ES, Newhouse JH, Cronan JJ. Radiology of male periurethral structures. (1988) AJR. American journal of roentgenology. 151 (2): 321-4. doi:10.2214/ajr.151.2.321 - Pubmed
- 6. Krawitt LN, Schechterman L. Inflammation of the periurethral glands of Littre simulating tumor. (1977) The Journal of urology. 118 (4): 685. doi:10.1016/s0022-5347(17)58157-4 - Pubmed
- 7. DOBOS EI, DOWNING SW, ASHE SM. Primary carcinoma originating in the Littre glands. (1954) Cancer. 7 (3): 539-48. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(195405)7:3<539::aid-cncr2820070313>3.0.co;2-7 - Pubmed
- 8. Isola M, Cossu M, DE Lisa A, et al. Oxytocin immunoreactivity in the human urethral (Littrè's) glands. (2010) The Journal of reproduction and development. 56 (1): 94-7. doi:10.1262/jrd.09-063e - Pubmed
- 9. Bujons A, Ponce de León X, Baez C, zt al. [Paraurethral cyst of the Littre's gland: an exceptional case]. (2006) Archivos espanoles de urologia. 59 (6): 624-6. Pubmed
- 10. Elgamal AA, Van de Voorde W, Van Poppel H, et al. Immunohistochemical localization of prostate-specific markers within the accessory male sex glands of Cowper, Littre, and Morgagni. (1994) Urology. 44 (1): 84-90. doi:10.1016/s0090-4295(94)80014-6 - Pubmed