Salivary glands
Normal Anatomy

Author: Sally Tanakchi, M.B.Ch.B. (see Authors page)
Editor: F. Zahra Aly, M.D., Ph.D.

Revised: 15 October 2015, last major update September 2015

Copyright: (c) 2002-2015,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Embryology [title] salivary glands
Cite this page: Embryology. website. Accessed January 19th, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Parotid gland primordia (anlage) arises in weeks 5-6 from ectoderm, followed by submandibular gland primordia in week 6 from endoderm, then sublingual gland primordia in weeks 7-8 from endoderm
  • Intra-oral minor salivary glands (including Von Ebner’s gland) develop during the third month from endoderm
  • Primordia develop from primitive oral cavity (stomodeum) as buds, which proliferate as cords, form terminal bulbs, develop clefts and further proliferate as branches from original cord; then the process is repeated
  • Lumens form in epithelial cords and progress to terminal bulbs; cells differentiate into various ducts and acini
  • Connective tissue diminishes with maturation
  • Parotid buds may penetrate intra-parotid lymph nodes; rare with submandibular or sublingual structures
  • Secretion by the parotid glands via the parotid duct begins at about 18 weeks of gestation, while secretion by the submandibular gland begins at 16 weeks of gestation
Microscopic (histologic) images
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  • AFIP Figure 1-2:
    • Left: The origin of the parotid gland, submandibular gland and sublingual gland from the epithelial lining of the primitive stomodeum is illustrated in the schematic drawing of the oral cavity of a 9-week-old embryo
    • Right: photomicrograph in section through fetal tongue, linguogingivalgroove and buccal mucosa shows the proliferative epithelial cord of the developing parotid gland (arrow)

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  • AFIP Figure 1-3:
    • Left: the primitive epithelial ducts and tubules are mostly undifferentiated and within a very loose, but moderately cellular, fibrous stroma in a 25-week-old fetus
    • Right: at high magnification, the terminal tubules are a double layer of epithelial cells
      • The outer layer will differentiate into myoepithelial and basal cells, and the inner cells will become ductal and serous acinar cells