Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 123, Issue 1, pp 61–65 | Cite as

Localization of steroid hormone receptors in the apocrine sweat glands of the human axilla

  • Konstantin BeierEmail author
  • Isabelle Ginez
  • Heidi Schaller
Original Paper


The apocrine axillary glands, regarded as pheromone-producing scent glands, do not begin to function until puberty. Accordingly, sex hormones should have an impact on their activity, and the present study was designed to investigate the localization of androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ) in those glands. Strong nuclear immunoreactivity for AR and ERβ was found in the secretory epithelium. In AR especially, staining intensity was correlated with the height of the epithelium with more intense immunoreactivity in tall segments. Since the lower epithelium has been considered inactive or resting, our results suggest a correlation between steroid-receptor expression and secretory activity. Androgens are known to upregulate the cholesterol biosynthesis, and cholesterol may be used as precursor for pheromones. Accordingly, the results of this study establish a possible link between steroid hormone action and induction of pheromone production in the apocrine axillary glands.


Axilla Apocrine glands Androgen receptor Estrogen receptor Pheromones 



We wish to thank R. Kurz, G. Sasse, D. Wyler and F. Azzalini for providing autopsy samples of human axillary skin. We are grateful to K. O’Leary for help in preparation of the manuscript and to R. Zeller for helpful comments. The study was supported by a grant from the Stiftung Emilia Guggenheim-Schnurr, Basel.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Konstantin Beier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabelle Ginez
    • 1
  • Heidi Schaller
    • 1
  1. 1.Anatomisches InstitutBaselSwitzerland

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