Journal of Anatomy

Immunohistochemical evidence suggests intrinsic regulatory activity of human eccrine sweat glands

a1 Institute of Human Anatomy and Histology, University of Verona, Italy
a2 Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pavia, Italy


Immunohistochemistry of normal eccrine sweat glands was performed on paraffin sections of human skin. Immunoreactivity (ir) for neuron specific enolase, S100 protein (S100), regulatory peptides, nitric oxide synthase type I (NOS-I) and choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT) was found in small nerve bundles close to sweat glands. In the glands, secretory cells were labelled with anticytokeratin antibody. Using antibodies to S100, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP) a specific distribution pattern was found in secretory cells. Granulated (dark) and parietal (clear) cells were immunopositive for CGRP, and S100 and SP, respectively. Immunoreactivity was diffuse in the cytoplasm for CGRP and S100, and peripheral for SP. Myoepithelial cells were not labelled. Electron microscopy revealed electron dense granules, probably containing peptide, in granulated cells. Using antibodies to NOS-I and ChAT, ir was exclusively found in myoepithelial cells. Immunoreactivity for the atrial natriuretic peptide was absent in sweat glands. These results provide evidence for the presence of both regulatory peptides involved in vasodilation and key enzymes for the synthesis of nitric oxide and acetylcholine in the secretory coil of human sweat glands. It is suggested that human sweat glands are capable of some intrinsic regulation in addition to that carried out by their nerve supply.

(Accepted January 5 1999)

Key Words: Neuropeptides; nitric oxide synthase; choline-acetyltransferase; substance P; calcitonin gene-related peptide.

c1 Correspondence to Dr Carlo Zancanaro, Istituto di Anatomia Umana ed Istologia, Strada Le Grazie, 8, I-37134 Verona, Italy. Tel.: +39–45–8098155; fax +39–45–8098163; e-mail: