Anatomy, Endocrine Regulation, and Embryonic Development of the Rete Testis

Andrew T. Major, Martin A. Estermann, Craig A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Reproduction in males requires the transfer of spermatozoa from testis tubules via the rete system to the efferent ductules, epididymis, and vas deferens. The rete therefore forms an essential bridging system between the testis and excurrent ducts. Yet the embryonic origin and molecular regulation of rete testis development is poorly understood. This review examines the anatomy, endocrine control, and development of the mammalian rete testis, focusing on recent findings on its molecular regulation, identifying gaps in our knowledge, and identifying areas for future research. The rete testis develops in close association with Sertoli cells of the seminiferous cords, although unique molecular markers are sparce. Most recently, modern molecular approaches such as global RNA-seq have revealed the transcriptional signature of rete cell precursors, pointing to at least a partial common origin with Sertoli cells. In the mouse, genes involved in Sertoli cell development or maintenance, such as Sox9, Wt1, Sf1, and Dmrt1, are also expressed in cells of the rete system. Rete progenitor cells also express unique markers, such as Pax8, E-cadherin, and keratin 8. These must directly or indirectly regulate the physical joining of testis tubules to the efferent duct system and confer other physiological functions of the rete. The application of technologies such as single-cell RNA-seq will clarify the origin and developmental trajectory of this essential component of the male reproductive tract.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbqab046
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • DMRT1
  • rete testis
  • sex determination
  • Steroidogenic factor 1
  • testis

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