Icon module 3

The gonadal ridge

For both sexes the gonads arise in the gonadal ridges (inset in figure 5). These are bilateral, ridge-like protrusions that appear ventromedially to the nephrogenic cord. They are generated in the 5th week through the proliferation of the coelomic epithelium and the thickening of the underlying mesenchyma.
At this point, the gonadal ridge represents the primitive gonadal primordium. In order for this to develop into the definitive and gender-specific gonads, the immigration of the primordial germ cells is necessary.

Fig. 5 - Immigration of the primordial germ cells
into the gonadal ridge in the 5-6th week

  1. Proliferating coelomic epithelium
  2. Thickening of the mesenchyma
  3. Germinal cords
  4. Primordial germ cells (red dots)
  5. Mesenchyma
  6. Allantois
  7. Vitelline
  8. Intestinal tube
  9. Dorsal mesentery
  10. Gonadal ridge
  11. Nephrogenic cord
  12. Mesonephric (Wolffian) duct
  13. Mesonephric tubule
  14. Aorta

Fig. 5

Inset: primordium of the gonadal ridge at around the 5th week.

Large picture: formation of the undifferentiated gonadal primordium in the 6th week with the immigration of the primordial germ cells (red dots)

Indifferent gonadal primordium

In the 6th week, the primordial germ cells infiltrate into both gonadal ridges. The primordial germ cells become surrounded by the coelomic epithelial cells that have proliferated and advanced into the depths of the mesenchyma. These germinal cords are still connected with the surface of the coelomic epithelium. At this point, the male and female gonadal primordia cannot be distinguished and, for this reason, this condition is referred to as the indifferent gonadal primordium.

The gonads (= gonadal ridge + primordial germ cells) are extended, arched bodies in the somatic cavity.
Their cranial and caudal parts later form themselves back into gonadal ligaments, while the remainder proliferates further to testis and ovary, which soon exceeds the mesonephros in size.