Apocrine glands of Moll are regular components of primate eyelids. We studied the distribution and localization of these glands in three different primate species, the common marmoset, the rhesus monkey, and the hamadryas baboon. In addition, we tested the primate glands of Moll with antibodies against antimicrobial proteins, cytoskeletal proteins and the androgen receptor. The glands of Moll differ in abundance and distribution in different monkeys. In the common marmoset, a representative of the New World monkeys, Platyrrhini, the apocrine glands are frequently found at the lid margin and in the overlying epidermis of the lid. In the rhesus monkey and the hamadryas baboon, representatives of Old World monkeys, Catarrhini, apocrine glands are rarer and located predominantly at the margin of the lid. The immunohistochemical analysis indicates the presence of a variety of antimicrobial proteins, e. g. lysozyme, beta-defensin-2, adrenomedullin, lactoferrin, and IgA, in these glands. Interestingly, there are basically no androgen receptors in the nuclei of apocrine glands at the lid margin in all three monkey species. In the common marmoset, however, androgen receptors are found in apocrine glands of the overlying epidermis of the lid. We speculate that the glands of Moll are derived from apocrine glands as found in the skin of the entire body in New World monkeys which developed at the lid margins of higher primates and humans into specialized glands secreting agents of host defense in the eye. Copyright (C) 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.