Wolffian duct

Last revised by Dr Matt Adams on 31 Jan 2021

The Wolffian duct (also known as the mesonephric duct) is one of the paired embryogenic tubules that drain the primitive kidney (mesonephros) to the cloaca. It also gives off a lateral branch forming the ureteric bud. In both the male and the female, the Wolffian duct develops into the trigone of the urinary bladder.

In the female, in the absence of testosterone, the Wolffian duct regresses. However, inclusions may persist resulting in the epoophoron and Skene glands. Where a remnant exists lateral to the wall of the vagina, a Gartner duct or Gartner duct cyst may form.

When the ducts are exposed to testosterone during embryogenesis, male sexual differentiation occurs: the Wolffian duct develops into the rete testis, the ejaculatory ducts, the epididymis, the ductus deferens, and the seminal vesicles. The prostate is formed separately from the urogenital sinus.

Named after Caspar Friedrich Wolff: described the mesonephros and its ducts in his dissertation in 1759.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: Developmental antomy - renal
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  • Figure 2: Wolffian and Müllerian duct development
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