bulbourethral glands
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The bulbourethral glands or Cowper's glands (named for English anatomist
William Cowper William Cowper ( ; 26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800) was an English poet and Anglican hymnwriter. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th-century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and sce ...
) are two small
exocrine Exocrine glands are glands that secrete substances on to an epithelial surface by way of a duct. Examples of exocrine glands include sweat, salivary, mammary, ceruminous, lacrimal, sebaceous, prostate and mucous. Exocrine glands are one of ...
gland In animals, a gland is a group of cells in an animal's body that synthesizes substances (such as hormones) for release into the bloodstream ( endocrine gland) or into cavities inside the body or its outer surface ( exocrine gland). Structure ...
s in the reproductive system of many male mammals (of all domesticated animals, they are absent only in dogs). They are homologous to
Bartholin's gland The Bartholin's glands (named after Caspar Bartholin the Younger; also called Bartholin glands or greater vestibular glands) are two pea sized compound alveolar glandsManual of Obstetrics. (3rd ed.). Elsevier. pp. 1-16. . located slightly poster ...
s in females. The bulbouretheral glands are responsible for producing a pre-ejaculate fluid called Cowper's fluid (known colloquially as ''pre-ejaculate'' or ''pre-cum''), which is secreted during sexual arousal, neutralizing the acidity of the urethra in preparation for the passage of sperm cells.


Location

Bulbourethral glands are located posterior and lateral to the membranous portion of the
urethra The urethra (from Greek οὐρήθρα – ''ourḗthrā'') is a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body of both females and males. In human females and other primates, the urethra con ...
at the base of the
penis A penis (plural ''penises'' or ''penes'' () is the primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate females (or hermaphrodites) during copulation. Such organs occur in many animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate, but males d ...
, between the two layers of the
fascia A fascia (; plural fasciae or fascias; adjective fascial; from Latin: "band") is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches to, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs ...
of the
urogenital diaphragm Older texts have asserted the existence of a urogenital diaphragm, also called the triangular ligament, which was described as a layer of the pelvis that separates the deep perineal sac from the upper pelvis, lying between the inferior fascia of ...
, in the
deep perineal pouch The deep perineal pouch (also deep perineal space) is the anatomic space enclosed in part by the perineum, and located superior to the perineal membrane. Structure The deep perineal pouch is bordered inferiorly by the perineal membrane, also kno ...
. They are enclosed by transverse fibers of the sphincter urethrae membranaceae muscle.


Structure

The bulbourethral glands are compound tubulo-alveolar glands, each approximately the size of a
pea The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the flowering plant species ''Pisum sativum''. Each pod contains several peas, which can be green or yellow. Botanically, pea pods are fruit, since they contain seeds an ...
in humans. In chimpanzees, they are not visible during dissection, but can be found on microscopic examination. In
boars The wild boar (''Sus scrofa''), also known as the wild swine, common wild pig, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia and North Africa, and has been introduced to the Americas and Oceania. The species is no ...
, they are up to 18 cm long and 5 cm in diameter. They are composed of several
lobules In anatomy, a lobe is a clear anatomical division or extension of an organ (as seen for example in the brain, lung, liver, or kidney) that can be determined without the use of a microscope at the gross anatomy level. This is in contrast to the m ...
held together by a fibrous covering. Each lobule consists of a number of
acini An acinus (; plural, acini; adjective, acinar or acinous) refers to any cluster of cells that resembles a many-lobed "berry," such as a raspberry (''acinus'' is Latin for "berry"). The berry-shaped termination of an exocrine gland, where the ...
, lined by columnar
epithelial cells Epithelium or epithelial tissue is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. It is a thin, continuous, protective layer of compactly packed cells with a little intercellul ...
, opening into a duct that joins with the ducts of other lobules to form a single excretory duct. This duct is approximately 2.5 cm long and opens into the bulbar urethra at the base of the penis. The glands gradually diminish in size with advancing age.''
Gray's Anatomy ''Gray's Anatomy'' is a reference book of human anatomy written by Henry Gray, illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, and first published in London in 1858. It has gone through multiple revised editions and the current edition, the 42nd (Octo ...
'', 38th ed., p 1861.


Function

The bulbourethral gland contributes up to 4 ml of fluid during sexual arousal. The secretion is a clear fluid rich in
mucoprotein A mucoprotein is a glycoprotein composed primarily of mucopolysaccharides. Mucoproteins can be found throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs, airways, and the synovial fluid of the knees. They are called muco ...
s that help to lubricate the distal
urethra The urethra (from Greek οὐρήθρα – ''ourḗthrā'') is a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body of both females and males. In human females and other primates, the urethra con ...
and neutralize acidic
urine Urine is a liquid by-product of metabolism in humans and in many other animals. Urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the urinary bladder. Urination results in urine being excreted from the body through the urethra. Cellular m ...
which remains in the urethra. According to one preliminary study, the bulbourethral gland fluid might not contain any
sperm Sperm is the male reproductive cell, or gamete, in anisogamous forms of sexual reproduction (forms in which there is a larger, female reproductive cell and a smaller, male one). Animals produce motile sperm with a tail known as a flagellum, wh ...
, whereas another study showed some men did leak sperm in potentially significant quantities (in a range from low counts up to 50 million sperm per ml) into the pre-ejaculatory fluid, potentially leading to conception from the introduction of
pre-ejaculate Pre-ejaculate (also known as pre-ejaculatory fluid, pre-seminal fluid or Cowper's fluid, and colloquially as ''pre-cum'') is a clear, colorless, viscous fluid that is emitted from the urethra of the penis during sexual arousal. It is similar in ...
. However, the sperm source is a residual or pre-ejaculatory leak from the testicles into the
vas deferens The vas deferens or ductus deferens is part of the male reproductive system of many vertebrates. The ducts transport sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory ducts in anticipation of ejaculation. The vas deferens is a partially coiled tube ...
, rather than from the bulbourethral gland itself.


Gallery

File:Illu penis.jpg, Structure of the penis File:Gray1136.png, Male pelvic organs seen from right side. File:Gray1156.png, Vertical section of bladder, penis, and urethra. File:Gray543.png , Bulbourethral gland labeled at center left.


See also

*
List of homologues of the human reproductive system This list of related male and female reproductive organs shows how the male and female reproductive organs and the development of the reproductive system are related, sharing a common developmental path. This makes them biological homologues ...
* Urethral gland


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Bulbourethral Gland Exocrine system Glands Mammal male reproductive system