Sweat glands play a fundamental role in thermal regulation in man, but the molecular mechanism of their development remains unknown. To initiate analyses, we compared the model of Eda mutant Tabby mice, in which sweat glands were not formed, with wild-type (WT) mice. We inferred developmental stages and critical genes based on observations at seven time points spanning embryonic, postnatal and adult life. In WT footpads, sweat gland germs were detected at E17.5. The coiling of secretory portions started at postnatal day 1 (P1), and sweat gland formation was essentially completed by P5. Consistent with a controlled morphological progression, expression profiling revealed stage-specific gene expression changes. Similar to the development of hair follicles—the other major skin appendage controlled by EDA—sweat gland induction and initial progression were accompanied by Eda-dependent up-regulation of the Shh pathway. During the further development of sweat gland secretory portions, Foxa1 and Foxi1, not at all expressed in hair follicles, were progressively up-regulated in WT but not in Tabby footpads. Upon completion of WT development, Shh declined to Tabby levels, but Fox family genes remained at elevated levels in mature sweat glands. The results provide a framework for the further analysis of phased down-stream regulation of gene action, possibly by a signaling cascade, in response to Eda
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