2010 Volume 56 Issue 1 Pages 94-97
Oxytocin is a cyclic nonapeptide whose best known effects are stimulation of uterine smooth muscle cells during labor and of milk ejection during lactation. Circulating oxytocin originates from the hypothalamus, but its production has also been documented in peripheral tissues. Furthermore, seminal plasma also contains oxytocin, but its functional role is still unknown, although its secretion is generally ascribed to the prostate. In this study, we investigated the possibility that seminal oxytocin is also secreted by other exocrine glands of the human male genital tract. Intramural (Littrè's) glands isolated from bioptic specimens of normal urethrae were processed for immunogold localization of oxytocin. Immunostaining was detected in principal cells, with gold particles specifically found on secretory granules. Basal and endocrine cells were unstained. The present findings suggest that urethral glands not only produce the mucinous layer that protects and lubricates the urethral wall, but also are potential sources of other seminal components, such as oxytocin, which probably play still unclear roles in reproductive physiology.