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NIA researchers find genetic connection to sweat secretion

While most Americans depend on heating and air conditioning systems to keep comfortable during winter and summer, the body itself is a master regulator of temperature. The nervous system regulates the body’s heat production and dissipation through the skin, causing us to shiver when we are too cold and sweat when we are too hot. However, the genetic mechanisms driving sweat secretion are still largely unknown.

In the January 5, 2012 online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators from NIA’s Laboratory of Genetics describe the first genetic cascade found to be involved in regulating sweat secretion. The scientists developed a strain of mice that lack FoxA1, a protein that controls when certain genes are activated, specifically in skin. They found that, while the mice did develop sweat glands, they did not sweat. This indicates that FoxA1 is involved in regulating sweat secretion. They also found evidence that two additional proteins, Best2 and NKcc1, were targets of FoxA1 and involved in the sweating process. The findings may provide future research direction for studying potential medicines that could protect against hyperthermia in extreme conditions, and alleviate reduced temperature regulation in older people.

Reference: Cui C.Y., et al. Forkhead transcription factor FoxA1 regulates sweat secretion through Bestrophin 2 anion channel and Na-K-Cl cotransporter 1. PNAS USA January 5, 2012. Epub ahead of print.