Male accessory sex organs

Alfred Ajibola - Tue, 06th August, 2019 @ 15:29: PM

Topics in Biology

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The living cells that makes up cartilages are called _____.

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  • B. osteoblasts
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Which of the following statement is incorrect with regards to chitin?

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  • B. It is a skeletal material
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  • It is present in ants

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Organisms that manufacture their own food through the help of sunlight or chemicals are best referred to as _____.

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Organisms that begins a food chain and also manufacture their food through photosynthesis are best referred to as _____.

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Male accessory sex organs:

The male accessory sex glands are very important in the formation of semen. Without their secretions, the released sperm (via ejaculation) may not be able to fertilize the female's ova (egg). In a previous article, we looked at the penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, spermatic cord, cremaster muscles and vas deferens (as structures of the male reproductive system). You can read on them here.

Note: Sperm cells, in addition to the secretions from the accessory sex organs or glands give rise to semen. This semen is released during sexual intercourse at the ejaculation process.

The male accessory sex glands include:

  • Seminar vesicles
  • Prostate gland
  • Bulbourethral glands or Cowper’s gland

These glands are called accessory because they interact with the male sex cells (sperm) on their path on being released from the external urethral orifice in the penis. They are also very vital in the normal functioning of sperm cells. Their secretions together with the sperm give rise to semen.

Before we look into the accessory glands, let's make some quick points on the ejaculatory ducts.


  • Ejaculatory ducts

Also called the ductus ejaculatorii, they are paired structures formed by the union of the vas deferens and the duct of the seminal vesicle. The ejaculatory ducts, which are about 2cm in length convey semen as it travels into the prostate gland and eventually drains into the urethra.

Notice the ejaculatory ducts in the diagram below

Image Credit: DocPlayer

Blockage of the ejaculatory ducts result in a clinical condition called ejaculatory duct obstruction. If both ducts are obstructed, the patient will suffer from either aspermia (an absence of sperm) or azoospermia (low sperm count).

The operation carried out to remove the obstructed or blocked ejaculatory ducts is termed Transurethral resection.


Now, let's look into the male accessory glands of reproduction.

  • Prostate gland

Located between the bladder and the penis (and just in front of the rectum) is the prostate gland which is a muscular structure that looks like the size of a walnut. It is the function of the prostate to secrete fluid into the contents of the ejaculatory duct (which happens to be sperm). The prostatic fluid (somewhat milky in appearance) is vital for the normal functioning of sperm; in addition to protecting it.

Note: Also attached to the prostate are the seminal vesicles which secrete some additional fluid into the sperm before ejaculation occurs.

The prostatic fluid (slightly acidic) and seminal fluid (alkaline), together with other fluids secreted into the sperm give rise to semen. Overall, the semen is slightly alkaline; and this helps to counteract the acidity of the vagina, thus protecting the sperm inside the vagina.

For ejaculation to occur in males, the prostate gland must contract, thus pushing the semen into the urethra. During this process of contraction, the opening between the bladder and urethra is obstructed (closed); and for this reason, a male cannot urinate and ejaculate simultaneously (at the same time).

Note: Urine flows from the bladder into the urethra.

As a male advances in age, they become more likely to have some clinical issues with their prostate gland.

Below are two clinical prostate conditions

  1. Prostate cancer: This is one of the commonest cancers in males. When a patient delays the surgical operation of a prostate cancer, it’s called watchful waiting. It can be treated by surgically removing the prostate organ, radiation or hormonal therapy.

  2. Prostatitis: This is an inflammation of the prostate. It is usually treated by using the appropriate antibiotics, as prescribed by the doctor. You may read on drugs and their side effects here.

The diagram below shows the accessory male reproductive glands

Image Credit: DocPlayer


  • Seminal Vesicles

A male has a pair of seminal vesicles located posterior to the base of the urinary bladder and just in front of the rectum. They function to add some viscous and alkaline secretions to sperm present in the ejaculatory ducts. The alkalinity of this fluid helps to neutralized any acidity produced by the environment of the urethra (which may result from acidic urine that may have passed through it). Similarly, they also neutralize the acidic environment of the vagina hence fostering sperm survival within it. 

Some of the components of the seminal fluid includes:

  1. Fructose: This is a simple sugar that's used for ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) generation. ATP is very essential for sperm motility (as it swims upward in the female reproductive tract). For now, think of ATP as the energy currency of the body. You can read on sugars here.

  2. Prostaglandins: They reduce the negative effects of the female immune system acting on the sperm. This increases the survival chance of the sperms. Please read on immunization here.

  3. Semenogelin: This fluid creates a gel like structure around the sperm, thus protecting it. Also, the appearance of semen is largely due to semenogelin.


  • Bulbourethral glands

They are also called the Cowper’s gland. The bulbourethral glands are two pea like shaped organs located just below the prostate gland at the beginning of the root of the penis. In addition to the prostate and seminal fluids, they also add fluid to the semen during the process of ejaculation. The fluids of the bulbourethral glands are clear and thick, functioning to lubricate the urethra just as the semen follows through. It is also considered that this fluid presents a better condition for the sperm cells to survive.


Note: Although the urethra is not a part of the male accessory reproductive glands, it still has a part to play in the male reproductive system.

  • Urethra

The male urethra is a single structure that serves two functions

  1. Micturition (the act of urinating).
  2. Conduction and Movement of semen during ejaculation.

In males, the urethra is a narrow fibro-muscular tube that conducts urine from the bladder to the exterior as well as semen from the ejaculatory ducts to the exterior.

Note: The male urethra is about 7 to 8 inches in length and it runs through the prostate gland, seminal vesicles and entire length of the penis before emptying its content to the exterior.

Finally, the urethra has three sections. These are:

  1. Prostatic urethra: This is the uppermost portion of the urethra. It lies inside the prostate gland.

  2. Membranous urethra: This is the segment within the urethral sphincter. Urine or semen can only come out (one at a time) when the membranous urethra is opened.

  3. Spongy urethra: This is the lowest and longest section of the urethra. It lies within the entire length of the penis to the exterior. (This exterior opening of the urethra is also called the external urethral orifice or  meatus).


Alfred Ajibola is a Medical Biochemist, a passionate Academician with over 7 years of experience, a Versatile Writer, a Web Developer, a Cisco Certified Network Associate and a Cisco CyberOps Associate.

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