Neural control of sweat secretion: a review

Br J Dermatol. 2018 Jun;178(6):1246-1256. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15808. Epub 2018 Apr 25.


Background: Humans have 4 million exocrine sweat glands, which can be classified into two types: eccrine and apocrine glands. Sweat secretion, a constitutive feature, is directly involved in thermoregulation and metabolism, and is regulated by both the central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS).

Objectives: To explore how sweat secretion is controlled by both the CNS and the ANS and the mechanisms behind the neural control of sweat secretion.

Methods: We conducted a literature search on PubMed for reports in English from 1 January 1950 to 31 December 2016.

Results and conclusions: Acetylcholine acts as a potent stimulator for sweat secretion, which is released by sympathetic nerves. β-adrenoceptors are found in adipocytes as well as apocrine glands, and these receptors may mediate lipid secretion from apocrine glands for sweat secretion. The activation of β-adrenoceptors could increase sweat secretion through opening of Ca2+ channels to elevate intracellular Ca2+ concentration. Ca2+ and cyclic adenosine monophosphate play a part in the secretion of lipids and proteins from apocrine glands for sweat secretion. The translocation of aquaporin 5 plays an important role in sweat secretion from eccrine glands. Dysfunction of the ANS, especially the sympathetic nervous system, may cause sweating disorders, such as hypohidrosis and hyperhidrosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / physiology
  • Apocrine Glands / innervation
  • Apocrine Glands / metabolism*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology
  • Eccrine Glands / innervation
  • Eccrine Glands / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / physiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology
  • Secretory Pathway / physiology
  • Sweat / metabolism*
  • Sweat Gland Diseases / physiopathology


  • Calcium Channels
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Acetylcholine
  • Norepinephrine