Structure and function of human sweat glands studied with histochemistry and cytochemistry

Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2002;37(4):323-86. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6336(02)80005-5.


The basic structure and the physiological function of human sweat glands were reviewed. Histochemical and cytochemical techniques greatly contributed the elucidation of the ionic mechanism of sweat secretion. X-ray microanalysis using freeze-dried cryosections clarified the level of Na, K, and Cl in each secretory cell of the human sweat gland. Enzyme cytochemistry, immunohistochemistry and autoradiography elucidated the localization of Na,K-ATPase. These data supported the idea that human eccrine sweat is produced by the model of N-K-2Cl cotransport. Cationic colloidal gold localizes anionic sites on histological sections. Human eccrine and apocrine sweat glands showed completely different localization and enzyme sensitivity of anionic sites studied with cationic gold. Human sweat glands have many immunohistochemical markers. Some of them are specific to apocrine sweat glands, although many of them stain both eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. Histochemical techniques, especially immunohistochemistry using a confocal laser scanning microscope and in situ hybridization, will further clarify the relationship of the structure and function in human sweat glands.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apocrine Glands / anatomy & histology*
  • Apocrine Glands / growth & development
  • Apocrine Glands / immunology
  • Apocrine Glands / physiology*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Eccrine Glands / anatomy & histology*
  • Eccrine Glands / growth & development
  • Eccrine Glands / immunology
  • Eccrine Glands / physiology*
  • Eccrine Glands / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Sweat Gland Neoplasms / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers