Catecholamines are required for the acquisition of secretory responsiveness by sweat glands

H. Tian, B. Habecker, G. Guidry, A. Gurtan, M. Rios, S. Roffler-Tarlov, S. C. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The sympathetic innervation of sweat glands undergoes a developmental change in transmitter phenotype from catecholaminergic to cholinergic. Acetylcholine elicits sweating and is necessary for development and maintenance of secretory responsiveness, the ability of glands to produce sweat after nerve stimulation or agonist administration. To determine whether catecholamines play a role in the development or function of this system, we examined the onset of secretory responsiveness in two transgenic mouse lines, one albino and the other pigmented, that lack tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in catecholamine synthesis. Although both lines lack TH, their catecholamine levels differ because tyrosinase in pigmented mice serves as an alternative source for catecholamine synthesis (Rios et al., 1999). At postnatal day 21 (P21), 28 glands on average are active in interdigital hind footpads of albino TH wild-type mice. In contrast, fewer than one gland is active in albino TH null mice, which lack catecholamines in gland innervation. Treatment of albino TH null mice with DOPA, a catecholamine precursor, from P11 to P21 increases the number of active glands to 14. Pigmented TH null mice, which have faint catecholamine fluorescence in the developing gland innervation, possess 12 active glands at P21, indicating that catecholamines made via tyrosinase, albeit reduced from wild-type levels, support development of responsiveness. Gland formation and the appearance of cholinergic markers occur normally in albino TH null mice, suggesting that catecholamines act directly on gland cells to trigger their final differentiation and to induce responsiveness. Thus, catecholamines, like acetylcholine, are essential for the development of secretory responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7362-7369
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Catecholamines
  • Sweat glands
  • Sympathetic neuron
  • Synapse development
  • Transmitter plasticity
  • Tyrosinase
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase null

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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