Authors: Poonam Sharma, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 11 July 2016, last major update October 2011

Copyright: (c) 2003-2016,, Inc.

PubMed search: embryology[title] esophagus
Cite this page: Embryology. website. Accessed November 20th, 2017.
Definition / general
  • Notocord induces formation of foregut from endoderm
  • At day 21 (end of week 3), lateral walls of foregut develop septa that fuse and divide foregut into esophagus and trachea
  • At week 4, myenteric plexus develops
  • At weeks 5-6, septation of walls ends; initial lining is stratified columnar epithelium, which proliferates and almost occludes the lumen
  • At weeks 6-7, submucosal plexus develops, circular muscular layer develops
  • At weeks 6-7, epithelial vacuolization appears, vacuoles coalesce to form a single esophageal lumen
  • At week 8, ciliated cells appear and extend to almost entire columnar epithelium
  • At week 9, longitudinal muscle layer develops; interstitial cells of Cajal appear
  • At week 10, a single layer of columnar cells covers entire esophagus
  • At month 4, submucosal glands appear due to downward growth of columnar cells, extend distally to cardiac mucosa
  • At month 5, stratified squamous epithelium initially appears in mid esophagus, and replaces ciliated epithelium cephalad and caudally; proximal esophagus may retain ciliated epithelium at birth
  • At month 5, upper esophagus has both striated and smooth muscle
Diagrams / tables

Images hosted on other servers:

4 weeks-relation of gut to yolk sac

Microscopic (histologic) images

Images hosted on PathOut server:

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

Top: spine; lower left: trachea & esophagus; center: lung, glandular stage