The Sebaceous Glands

  • A. J. Thody
  • S. Shuster
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 87 / 1)


The sebaceous glands are lipid-secreting glands found in the dermis of mammals. Most are associated with hair follicles as pilosebaceous glands found on most of the body surface:in man they are largest and most numerous on the face, forehead, scalp and front and back of the upper chest. The free sebaceous glands are not associated with hairs and occur in the transitional zones between the skin and mucous membranes. They are particularly prevalent in the anogenital and periareolar skin and the buccal mucosal membranes, where they increase in size with age. In some mammals free sebaceous glands have become highly specialised and are concerned with the secretion of pheromones, e.g. the preputial glands of rodents, the ventral glands of the gerbil, the costovertebral glands of hamsters and the large brachial glands of lemurs.


Sebaceous Gland Skin Surface Lipid Preputial Gland Sebum Production Sebum Secretion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alves A, Thody A, Shepherd L, Shuster S (1983) Estrogen stimulates preputial lipogenesis. J Invest Dermatol 80:358Google Scholar
  2. Alves A, Thody A, Fisher C, Shuster S (1986) Measurement of lipogenesis in isolated pre¬putial gland cells of the rat and the effect of oestrogen. J Endocrinol 109:1–7CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Archibald A (1973) A study of factors influencing sebaceous gland activity in the rat. PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle upon TyneGoogle Scholar
  4. Archibald A, Shuster S (1967) Bioassay of androgen using the rat sebaceous gland. J Endocrinol 37:22Google Scholar
  5. Archibald A, Shuster S (1969) The bioassay of androgens and antiandrogens using sebum secretion in the rat. Proc R Soc Med 62:887–888Google Scholar
  6. Bowden PE, Meddis D, Cooper MF, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1976) Effects of 5α-reduced androgens on preputial gland size and lipogenic activity. Biochem Soc Trans 4:795–797PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bruchovsky N, Wilson JD (1968) The conversion of testosterone to 5α-androstan-17β-ol-one by rat prostate in vivo and in vitro. J Biol Chem 243:5953–5960PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Burton JL (1970) The physical properties of sebum in acne vulgaris. Clin Sci 39:757PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton JL, Shuster S (1970) Effect of L-dopa on seborrhoea of parkinsonism. Lancet 11:19–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burton JL, Cunliffe WJ, Shuster S (1970) Circadian rhythm in sebum excretion. Br J Dermatol 82:497–501CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Burton JL, Libman LJ, Hall R, Shuster S (1971) Laevo-dopa in acne vulgaris. Lancet II:370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burton JL, Cartlidge M, Shuster S (1972 a) Variation in sebum secretion during the menstrual cycle. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 53:81–84Google Scholar
  13. Burton JL, Libman LJ, Cunliffe WJ, Wilkinson R, Hall R, Shuster S (1972 b) Sebum excretion in acromegaly. Br Med J 1:406–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burton JL, Shuster S, Cartlidge M, Libman LJ, Martell U (1973) Lactation, sebum excretion and melanocyte stimulating hormone. Nature 243:349–350CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Burton JL, Shuster S, Cartlidge M (1975) The sebotrophic effect of pregnancy. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 55:11–13Google Scholar
  16. Clark D, Thody AJ, Bowers H, Shuster S (1978) Immunoreactive α-MSH in human plasma in pregnancy. Nature 274:163–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cooper MF, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1974) Hormonal regulation of cutaneous lipogenesis:effects of hypophysectomy, posterior hypophysectomy and a-melanocyte stimulating hormone treatment. Biochim Biophys Acta 360:193–204PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Cooper MF, Bowden PE, Meddis D, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1975) The effect of a-MSH and various androgens on preputial gland activity. Acta Endocrinol [Suppl] 119:250Google Scholar
  19. Cooper MF, Hay JB, McGibbon D, Shuster S (1976 a) Androgen metabolism and sebaceous activity in clonal acne. J Invest Dermatol 66:261Google Scholar
  20. Cooper MF, Meddis D, Bowden PE, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1976 b) A comparison of the effects of growth hormone and a-MSH on the sebaceous gland. J Endocrinol 72:29P–30PGoogle Scholar
  21. Cooper MF, McGibbon D, Shuster S (1977) Response of sebaceous lipogenesis to testosterone in acne. J Invest Dermatol 68:255Google Scholar
  22. Cooper MF, McGibbon D, Wilson PD, Shuster S (1979) Androgenic control of the human sebaceous gland. J Invest Dermatol 72:267Google Scholar
  23. Cotterill JA, Cunliffe WJ, Williamson B, Bulusu L (1972) Age and sex variation in skin surface lipid composition and sebum excretion rate. Br J Dermatol 87:333–340CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Cunliffe WJ, Shuster S (1969) Pathogenesis of acne. Lancet 1:685–687CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Donohoe SM, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1981) Effect of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone and ovarian steroids on preputial gland function in the female rat. J Endocrinol 90:53–58CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Downing DT, Strauss JS, Norton LA, Pochi PE, Stewart ME (1977) The time course of lipid formation in human sebaceous glands. J Invest Dermatol 69:407–412CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ebling FJ (1948) Sebaceous glands. I. The effect of sex hormones on the sebaceous glands of the female albino rat. J Endocrinol 5:297–302CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Ebling FJ (1961) Failure of progesterone to enlarge sebaceous glands in the female rat. Br J Dermatol 73:65–68CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Ebling FJ (1963) Hormonal control of sebaceous glands in experimental animals. In: Montagna W, Ellis RA, Silvers AF (eds) Advances in biology of skin, vol 4, The sebaceous glands. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 200–210Google Scholar
  30. Ebling FJ, Skinner J (1967) The measurement of sebum production in rats treated with testosterone and oestradiol. Br J Dermatol 79:386–393CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Ebling FJ, Ebling E, Skinner J (1969 a) The influence of pituitary hormones on the response of the sebaceous glands of the rat to testosterone. J Endocrinol 45:245–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ebling FJ, Ebling E, Skinner J (1969 b) The influence of the pituitary on the response of the sebaceous and preputial glands of the rat to progesterone. J Endocrinol 45:257–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ebling FJ, Ebling E, Skinner J (1970) The effects of thyrotropic hormone and of thyroxine on the response of the sebaceous glands of the rat to testosterone. J Endocrinol 48:83–90CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Ebling FJ, Ebling E, McCaffery V, Skinner J (1971) The response of the sebaceous glands of the hypophysectomised castrated male rat to 5α-dihydrotestosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone and androsterone. J Endocrinol 51:181–190CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Ebling FJ, Ebling E, Randall V, Skinner J (1975) The synergistic action of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone and testosterone on the sebaceous, prostate, preputial, Harderian and lachrymal glands, seminal vesicles and brown adipose tissue in the hypophysectomised castrated rat. J Endocrinol 66:407–412CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Ellis RA (1967) Eccrine, sebaceous, and apocrine glands. In:Zelickson AS (ed) Ultrastructure of normal and abnormal skin. Lea & Febiger, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  37. Ellis RA, Hendrikson RC (1963) The ultrastructure of the sebaceous glands of man. In:Montagna W, Ellis RA, Silver AF (eds) Advances in biology of skin, vol 4, The sebaceous glands. Pergamon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  38. Flamigni CA, Collins WP, Koullapis EN, Craft I, Dewhurst C, Sommerville IF (1971) Androgen metabolism in human skin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 32:737–743CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Fulton JE, Plewig G, Kligman AM (1969) Effect of chocolate on acne vulgaris. JAMA 210:2071–2074CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Glenn EM, Gray J (1965) Effect of various hormones on the growth and histology of the gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) abdominal sebaceous gland pad. Endocrinology 76:1115–1123CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Glenn EM, Richardson SL, Bowman BJ (1959) A method of assay of anti-tumour activity using a rat mammary fibroadenoma. Endocrinology 64:379–389CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Gomez EC, Hsia SL (1968) In vitro metabolism of testosterone-4-14C and Δ4-androstene-3,17-dione-4-14C in human skin. Biochemistry 7:24–32CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Goolamali SK, Burton JL, Shuster S (1973) Sebum excretion in hypopituitarism. Br J Dermatol 89:21–24CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Goolamali SK, Plummer N, Burton JL, Shuster S, Thody AJ (1974) Sebum excretion and melanocyte stimulating hormone in hypoadrenalism. J Invest Dermatol 63:253–255CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Goolamali SK, Evered D, Shuster S (1976) Thyroid disease and sebaceous function. Br Med J 1:432–433CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Greene RS, Downing DT, Pochi PE, Strauss JS (1970) Anatomical variation in the amount and composition of human skin surface lipids. J Invest Dermatol 54:240–247CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Haskin D, Lasher N, Rothman S (1953) Some effects of ACTH, cortisone, progesterone and testosterone on sebaceous glands in the white rat. J Invest Dermatol 20:207–211PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Hay JB, Meddis D, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1976) Androgen metabolism in preputial glands of hypophysectomised rats. J Endocrinol 71:96Google Scholar
  49. Hay JB, Cooper MF, McGibbon D, Shuster S (1977) Comparison between sebaceous lipogenesis and androgen metabolism in skin from acne patietns. J Invest Dermatol 68:253Google Scholar
  50. Hay JB, Meddis D, Thody AJ, Shuster S (1982) Mechanism of action of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone in rat preputial glands:the role of androgen metabolism. J Endocrinol 94:289–294CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Hsia SL, Voigt V (1974) Inhibition of DHT production:an effective means of blocking androgen action in the hamster sebaceous gland. J Invest Dermatol 62:224–227CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Ikai K (1959) Rate of sebum excretion from the glands onto the skin surface. J Invest Der-matol 32:27–33Google Scholar
  53. Kellum RE, Strangfleld K, Ray LF (1970) Acne vulgaris. Studies in pathogenesis:triglyceride hydrolysis by Corynebacterium acnes in vitro. Arch Dermatol 101:41–47CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Kirk E (1948) Quantitative determination of the skin lipid secretion in middle aged and old individuals. J Gerontol 3:251–266PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Krahenbuhl C, Desaulles PA (1969) Interactions between α-MSH and sex steroids on the preputial glands of female rats. Experientia 25:1193–1195CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Lindholm JS, Downing DT (1980) Occurrence of squalene in skin surface lipids of the otter, the beaver and the kinkajou. Lipids 15:1062–1063CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Lucas PD, Donohoe SM, Thody AJ (1982) The role of estrogen and progesterone in the control of preputial gland sex attractant odors in the female rat. Physiol Behav 28:601–607CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Mauvais-Jarvis P, Kuttenn F, Mowszowicz I (1981) Hirsutism. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. McDonald I, Clarke G (1970) Variations in the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the skin surface fat during the menstrual cycle. Br J Dermatol 83:473–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Meddis D, Thody AJ, Shuster S, Greven HM (1978) The effect of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone and various analogues on preputial gland weight in the rat. IRCS Medical Science 6:433Google Scholar
  61. Nakanishi S, Inone A, Kita T, Nakamura M, Chang ACY, Cohen SN, Numa S (1979) Nucleotide sequence of cloned cDNA for bovine corticotropin-β-lipotrophin precursor. Nature 278:423–427CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Nicolaides N, Rothman S (1953) Studies on the chemical composition of human hair fat. J Invest Dermatol 21:9–14PubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Nicolaides N, Wells GC (1957) On the biogenesis of the free fatty acids in human skin surface fat. J Invest Dermatol 29:423–433PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Nikkari T, Valavaara M (1969) The production of sebum in young rats. Effects of age, sex, hypophysectomy and treatment with somatotrophic hormone and sex hormones. J Endocrinol 43:113–118CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Nikkari T, Valavaara M (1970) The influence of age, sex, hypophysectomy and various hormones on the composition of the skin surface lipids of the rat. Br J Dermatol 183:459–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pietras RJ (1981) Sex pheromone production by preputial gland:the regulatory role of estrogen. Chem Sens 6:391–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Plewig G, Christophers E (1974) Renewal rate of human sebaceous glands. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 54:177–182Google Scholar
  68. Pochi PE, Strauss JS, Mescon H (1963) The role of adrenocortical steroids in the control of human sebaceous gland activity. J Invest Dermatol 41:391–399CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Pochi PE, Downing DT, Strauss JS (1970) Sebaceous gland response in man to prolonged total caloric deprivation. J Invest Dermatol 55:303–309CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Robin M, Kepecs JC (1953) The relationship between certain emotional states and the rates of secretion of sebum. J Invest Dermatol 20:373–384PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Russell MJ (1976) Human olfactory communication. Nature 260:520–522CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Rust S, Harth P, Herrmann F (1968) Untersuchungen der freien Fettsäuren im Hautober-flächenfett von Hautgesunden. Arch Klin Exp Dermatol 231:300–310CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Rust S, Harth P, Herrmann F (1970) Untersuchungen der freien Fettsäuren in Hautober-flächenfett von Psoriatikern. Arch Klin Exp Dermatol 238:207–216CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Shuster S (1976) Hypothesis:the biological purpose of acne. Lancet 1:1328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Shuster S (1982) The sebaceous glands and primary cutaneous virilism. In:Jeffcoate SL (ed) Androgens and antiandrogen therapy. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  76. Shuster S, Thody AJ (1974) The control and measurement of sebum secretion. J Invest Dermatol 62:172–190CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Shuster S, Thody AJ, Goolamali SK, Burton JL, Plummer NA, Bates D (1973) Melanocyte stimulating hormone and parkinsonism. Lancet 1:463–465CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Shuster S, Goolamali SK, Smith AG, Thody AJ, Alvarez-Ude F, Kerr DNS (1976) Decreased sebum excretion in chronic renal failure. Br Med J 1:23–24CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Shuster S, Hinks WM, Thody AJ (1977) Effect of sex and age at gonadectomy on the sebaceous response to progesterone. J Endocrinol 73:67–70CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Silman RE, Chard T, Lowry PJ, Smith I, Young IM (1976) Human foetal pituitary peptides and parturition. Nature 260:716–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Stoddart DM (1980) Aspects of the evolutionary biology of mammalian olfaction. In:Stoddart DM (ed) Olfaction in mammals. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  82. Strauss JS, Kligman AM (1961) Effect of progesterone and progesterone like compounds on the human sebaceous glands. J Invest Dermatol 36:309–318Google Scholar
  83. Strauss JS, Pochi PE (1963) The hormonal control of sebaceous glands. In:Montagna W, Ellis RA, Silvers AF (eds) Advances in biology of skin, vol 4. Sebaceous glands. Pergamon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  84. Strauss JS, Downing DT, Ebling FJ (1983) Sebaceous glands. In:Goldsmith LA (ed) Bio-chemistry and physiology of the skin, vol II. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  85. Thody AJ, Dijkstra H (1978) Effect of ovarian steroids on preputial gland odours in the female rat. J Endocrinol 77:397–403CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1970) The effect of hypophysectomy and testosterone on the activity of the sebaceous glands of castrated rats. J Endocrinol 47:219–224CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  87. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1971a) The effect of hypophysectomy on the response of the sebaceous gland to testosterone propionate. J Endocrinol 49:329–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Thody A J, Shuster S (1971 b) The effect of adrenalectomy and adrenocortico trophic hormone on sebum secretion in the rat. J Endocrinol 49:325–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1971c) Sebotrophic activity of β-lipotrophin. J Endocrinol 50:533–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1971d) Increased sebum secretion in adult female rats after neonatal treatment with testosterone propionate. J Endocrinol 49:677–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1972a) A study of the relationship between the thyroid gland and sebum secretion in the rat. J Endocrinol 54:239–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1972b) The control of sebum secretion by the posterior pituitary. Nature 237:346–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1973) A possible role of MSH in the mammal. Nature 245:207–209CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  94. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1975) Control of sebaceous gland function in the rat by α-melanocyte stimulating hormone. J Endocrinol 64:504–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Thody AJ, Shuster S (1976) α-MSH and the metabolism of testosterone in the skin of the rat. J Invest Dermatol 66:264Google Scholar
  96. Thody AJ, Cooper MF, Bowden PE, Meddis D, Shuster S (1976) Effect of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone and testosterone on cutaneous and modified sebaceous glands in the rat. J Endocrinol 71:279–288CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  97. Thody AJ, Meddis D, Shuster S (1978) Increased sebaceous gland activity in the adult rat after α-melanocyte stimulating hormone treatment during early life. J Invest Dermatol 70:328–330CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  98. Thody AJ, Fisher C, Kendal-Taylor P, Jones MT, Price J, Abraham RR (1985) The mea-surement of immunoreactive α-melanocyte stimulating hormone in human plasma. Acta Endocrinol 110:313–318PubMedGoogle Scholar
  99. Thomas SE, Harrington CI, Ebling FJ (1983) An investigation into the sebum excretion rate above and below the lesion in paraplegic patients. Br J Dermatol 109:696Google Scholar
  100. Thomas SE, Conway J, Ebling FJ, Harrington CI (1985) Measurement of sebum excretion rate and skin temperature above and below the neurological lesion in paraplegic patients. Br J Dermatol 112:569–573CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  101. Toh YC (1979) Effect of neonatal administration of thyroxine on the rate of sebum production in rats. J Endocrinol 83:199–203CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  102. Toh YC (1980a) Role of the gonads in the regulation of sebaceous glands in rats:comparison of the effects of castration at birth and after birth. J Endocrinol 85:261–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Toh YC (1980 b) Effect of ovariectomy at birth on the regulation of sebaceous glands in rats. J Endocrinol 86:179–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Toh YC (1982) Effect of streptozotocin-induced diabetes on the activity of the sebaceous glands in rats. Endokrinologie 80:56–59PubMedGoogle Scholar
  105. Wheatley VR, Potter JER, Lew G (1979) Sebaceous gland differentiation. II. The isolation, separation and characterization of cells from mouse preputial gland. J Invest Dermatol 73:291–296Google Scholar
  106. Wilson JD, Walker JD (1969) The conversion of testosterone to 5α-androstan-17β-ol-3-one (dihydrotestosterone) by skin slices of man. J Clin Invest 48:371–379CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  107. Wolff HG, Lorenz TH, Graham DT (1951) Stress, emotions and human sebum:their relevance to acne vulgaris. Trans Assoc Am Physicians 64:435–44PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Thody
  • S. Shuster

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations