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Endocr Rev. 2000 Oct;21(5):457-87.

Neuroendocrinology of the skin.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pathology ,University of Tennessee, Memphis 38163, USA.

Erratum in

  • Endocr Rev 2002 Jun;23(3):364.


The classical observations of the skin as a target for melanotropins have been complemented by the discovery of their actual production at the local level. In fact, all of the elements controlling the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis are expressed in the skin including CRH, urocortin, and POMC, with its products ACTH, alpha-MSH, and beta-endorphin. Demonstration of the corresponding receptors in the same cells suggests para- or autocrine mechanisms of action. These findings, together with the demonstration of cutaneous production of numerous other hormones including vitamin D3, PTH-related protein (PTHrP), catecholamines, and acetylcholine that share regulation by environmental stressors such as UV light, underlie a role for these agents in the skin response to stress. The endocrine mediators with their receptors are organized into dermal and epidermal units that allow precise control of their activity in a field-restricted manner. The skin neuroendocrine system communicates with itself and with the systemic level through humoral and neural pathways to induce vascular, immune, or pigmentary changes, to directly buffer noxious agents or neutralize the elicited local reactions. Therefore, we suggest that the skin neuroendocrine system acts by preserving and maintaining the skin structural and functional integrity and, by inference, systemic homeostasis.

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