Independent vasomotor control of rat tail and proximal hairy skin


Corresponding author R. M. McAllen: Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia. Email:


Quantitative differences are known to exist between the vasomotor control of hairy and hairless skin, but it is unknown whether they are regulated by common central mechanisms. We made simultaneous recordings from sympathetic cutaneous vasoconstrictor (CVC-type) fibres supplying back skin (hairy) and tail (hairless) in urethane-anaesthetized, artificially ventilated rats. The animal's trunk was shaved and encased in a water-perfused jacket. Both tail and back skin CVC-type fibres were activated by cooling the trunk skin, and independently by the resultant fall in core (rectal) temperature, but their thresholds for activation differed (skin temperatures 38.8 ± 0.4°C versus 36.8 ± 0.4°C, core temperatures 38.1 ± 0.2°C versus 36.8 ± 0.2°C, respectively; P < 0.01). Back skin CVC-type fibres were more responsive to skin than to core cooling, while the reverse applied to tail fibres. Back skin CVC-type fibres were less responsive than tail fibres to prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) microinjected into the preoptic area. Spectral analysis showed no significant coherence between tail and back skin CVC-type fibre activities during cooling. After preoptic PGE2 injection, a coherent peak at 1 Hz appeared in some animals; this disappeared after partialization with respect to ventilatory pressure, indicating that it was attributable to common ventilatory modulation. Neuronal inhibition in the rostral medullary raphé by microinjected muscimol (2 mm, 60–120 nl) suppressed both tail and back skin CVC-type fibre activities, and prevented their responses to subsequent skin cooling. These results indicate that thermoregulatory responses of hairless and hairy skin vessels are controlled by independent neural pathways, although both depend on synaptic relays in the medullary raphé.