, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 149-157
Date: 02 Dec 2008

Tropical Malaysians and temperate Koreans exhibit significant differences in sweating sensitivity in response to iontophoretically administered acetylcholine

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Abstract

Natives of the tropics are able to tolerate high ambient temperatures. This results from their long-term residence in hot and often humid tropical climates. This study was designed to compare the peripheral mechanisms of thermal sweating in tropical natives with that of their temperate counterparts. Fifty-five healthy male subjects including 20 native Koreans who live in the temperate Korean climate (Temperate-N) and 35 native tropical Malaysian men that have lived all of their lives in Malaysia (Tropical-N) were enrolled in this study after providing written informed consent to participate. Quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing after iontophoresis (2 mA for 5 min) with 10% acetylcholine (ACh) was used to determine directly activated (DIR) and axon reflex-mediated (AXR) sweating during ACh iontophoresis. The sweat rate, activated sweat gland density, sweat gland output per single gland activated, and oral and skin temperature changes were measured. The sweat onset time of AXR (nicotinic-receptor-mediated) was 56 s shorter in the Temperate-N than in the Tropical-N subjects (P < 0.0001). The nicotinic-receptor-mediated sweating activity AXR (1), and the muscarinic-receptor-mediated sweating activity DIR, in terms of sweat volume, were 103% and 59% higher in the Temperate-N compared to the Tropical-N subjects (P < 0.0001). The Temperate-N group also had a 17.8% (P < 0.0001) higher active sweat gland density, 35.4% higher sweat output per gland, 0.24°C higher resting oral temperature, and 0.62°C higher resting forearm skin temperature compared to the Tropical-N subjects (P < 0.01). ACh iontophoresis did not influence oral temperature, but increased skin temperature near where the ACh was administered, in both groups. These results suggest that suppressed thermal sweating in the Tropical-N subjects was, at least in part, due to suppressed sweat gland sensitivity to ACh through both recruitment of active sweat glands and the sweat gland output per each gland. This physiological trait guarantees a more economical use of body fluids, thus ensuring more efficient protection against heat stress.