The preputial mucosa of the penis is the epithelium of the inside of the prepuce, or foreskin. To differentiate it from the cutaneous skin of the outside of the prepuce, it is sometimes referred to as the inner mucosa. It starts at the ridged band of the prepuce and continues to the coronal sulcus (groove behind the glans penis), where it meets the epithelium of the glans and penile shaft.
The preputial mucosa is devoid of hair, as is the cutaneous surface. The preputial mucosa contains fewer Langerhans cells than most mucosal epithelia (Weiss 1993). These cells secrete cytokines (a non-antibody protein that generates an immune response on contact with specific antigens), and are an essential part of the immune system. According to one review (Fleiss 1998), the inner mucosa contains apocrine glands, which secrete cathepsin B, lysosyme, chymotrypsin, neutrophil elastase, and pheromones such as androsterone. The first four substances have protective immunological functions, while the pheromones are postulated to play a role in sexual arousal of the female. A histological study (Taylor 1996), however, reported that the prepuce contains no apocrine (sweat) glands whatsoever.
- Cold CJ, Taylor JR. The prepuce. BJU Int 1999;83 Suppl. 1:34-44.
- Fleiss P, Hodges F, Van Howe RS. Immunological functions of the human prepuce. Sex Trans Inf 1998;74:364-367.
- Prakash S, Raghuram R, Venkatesan, et al. Sub-preputial wetness - Its nature. Ann Nat Med Sci (India) 1982;18(3):109-112.
- Taylor JR, Lockwood AP, Taylor AJ. The prepuce: specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision. Br J Urol. 1996;77:591-5.
- Waskett JH. Apocrine glands in inner prepuce doubtful. Sex Trans Inf. 2005; eLetter (20 June).
- Weiss GN, Sanders M, Westbrook KC. The distribution and density of langerhans cells in the human prepuce: Site of a diminished immune response? Isr J Med Sci. 1993 Jan 29(1):42-3.
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