Cutaneous vasodilator and vasoconstrictor mechanisms in temperature regulation

Compr Physiol. 2014 Jan;4(1):33-89. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c130015.


In this review, we focus on significant developments in our understanding of the mechanisms that control the cutaneous vasculature in humans, with emphasis on the literature of the last half-century. To provide a background for subsequent sections, we review methods of measurement and techniques of importance in elucidating control mechanisms for studying skin blood flow. In addition, the anatomy of the skin relevant to its thermoregulatory function is outlined. The mechanisms by which sympathetic nerves mediate cutaneous active vasodilation during whole body heating and cutaneous vasoconstriction during whole body cooling are reviewed, including discussions of mechanisms involving cotransmission, NO, and other effectors. Current concepts for the mechanisms that effect local cutaneous vascular responses to local skin warming and cooling are examined, including the roles of temperature sensitive afferent neurons as well as NO and other mediators. Factors that can modulate control mechanisms of the cutaneous vasculature, such as gender, aging, and clinical conditions, are discussed, as are nonthermoregulatory reflex modifiers of thermoregulatory cutaneous vascular responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide