Liver and intrahepatic bile ducts-nontumor

Authors: Komal Arora, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 8 July 2016, last major update April 2012

Copyright: (c) 2004-2016,, Inc.

PubMed search: Embryology[title] liver
Cite this page: Embryology. website. Accessed April 24th, 2017.
Definition / General
  • Arises at embryonic junction (septum transversum): where ectoderm of amnion meets endoderm of yolk sac (externally) and where foregut meets midgut (internally); mesenchymal structure of transverse septum provides support so blood vessels and liver can form in underlying splanchnic mesoderm (University of New South Wales-Australia)
  • Hepatic diverticulum buds from ventral foregut at end of third week, grows into primitive septum transversum
  • Liver forms from endodermal cells of diverticulum, termed hepatoblasts and mesenchyme
  • Blood supply primarily from umbilical vein; also portal vein and hepatic artery
  • Placenta clears wastes in bile and absorbs nutrients, and umbilical vein blood bypasses liver via ductus venosus
  • All elements of the biliary tree are recognizable by week 5, although bile duct system not complete until after birth; derived from endoderm (large ducts) and embryonic ductal plate (smaller intrahepatic ducts, Dig Surg 2010;27:87)
  • Hematopoietic cells are present in embryonic / fetal liver but absent at term
Diagrams / Tables

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Embryonic hepatic bud formation

Micro Images

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Contributed by Dr. Grigory Demyashkin, I. M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University (Russia) - 6-8 week embryo:


Upper left: small intestine; bottom left: esophagus; center: stomach; top right: pancreas; right: liver

Liver, islets of hematopoiesis

Left, above: final kidney (metanephros); lower left: liver; center: gonad and kidney primary (mesonephros); right: symphysis


Development of foregut related to the peritoneum