Sweat gland innervation is pioneered by sympathetic neurons expressing a cholinergic/noradrenergic co-phenotype in the mouse

Neuroscience. 2008 Oct 2;156(2):310-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.06.074. Epub 2008 Aug 5.


Classic neurotransmitter phenotypes are generally predetermined and develop as a consequence of target-independent lineage decisions. A unique mode of target-dependent phenotype instruction is the acquisition of the cholinergic phenotype in the peripheral sympathetic nervous system. A body of work suggests that the sweat gland plays an important role to determine the cholinergic phenotype at this target site. A key issue is whether neurons destined to innervate the sweat glands express cholinergic markers before or only after their terminals make target contact. We employed cholinergic-specific over-expression of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) in transgenic mice to overcome sensitivity limits in the detection of initial cholinergic sweat gland innervation. We found that VAChT immunoreactive nerve terminals were present around the sweat gland anlage already from the earliest postnatal stages on, coincident selectively at this sympathetic target with tyrosine hydroxylase-positive fibers. Our results provide a new mechanistic model for sympathetic neuron-target interaction during development, with initial selection by the target of pioneering nerve terminals expressing a cholinergic phenotype, and subsequent stabilization of this phenotype during development.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / genetics
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Phenotype*
  • Sweat Glands / innervation*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / growth & development
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins / metabolism


  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholine
  • Norepinephrine