Endocrine system

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Endocrine system
Endocrine English.svg
Main glands of the human endocrine system
Latin systema endocrinum
MeSH D004703
FMA 9668
Anatomical terminology

The endocrine system [1] is a messenger system in an organism comprising feedback loops of hormones that are released by internal glands directly into the circulatory system and that target and regulate distant organs. In vertebrates, the hypothalamus is the neural control center for all endocrine systems.


In humans, the major endocrine glands are the thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, pineal, and adrenal glands, and the (male) testicles and (female) ovaries. The hypothalamus, pancreas, and thymus also function as endocrine glands, among other functions. (The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are organs of the neuroendocrine system. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamusit is located in the brain adjacent to the pituitary glandis to link the endocrine system to the nervous system via the pituitary gland.) Other organs, such as the kidneys, also have roles within the endocrine system by secreting certain hormones. The study of the endocrine system and its disorders is known as endocrinology. [2]

Glands that signal each other in sequence are often referred to as an axis, such as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. In addition to the specialized endocrine organs mentioned above, many other organs that are part of other body systems have secondary endocrine functions, including bone, kidneys, liver, heart and gonads. For example, the kidney secretes the endocrine hormone erythropoietin. Hormones can be amino acid complexes, steroids, eicosanoids, leukotrienes, or prostaglandins. [3]

The endocrine system is contrasted both to exocrine glands, which secrete hormones to the outside of the body, and to the system known as paracrine signalling between cells over a relatively short distance. Endocrine glands have no ducts, are vascular, and commonly have intracellular vacuoles or granules that store their hormones. In contrast, exocrine glands, such as salivary glands, mammary glands, and submucosal glands within the gastrointestinal tract, tend to be much less vascular and have ducts or a hollow lumen. Endocrinology is a branch of internal medicine. [3]


Major endocrine systems

The human endocrine system consists of several systems that operate via feedback loops. Several important feedback systems are mediated via the hypothalamus and pituitary. [4]


Endocrine glands are glands of the endocrine system that secrete their products, hormones, directly into interstitial spaces where they are absorbed into blood rather than through a duct. The major glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are neuroendocrine organs.

The hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary are two out of the three endocrine glands that are important in cell signaling. They are both part of the HPA axis which is known to play a role in cell signaling in the nervous system.

Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is a key regulator of the autonomic nervous system. The endocrine system has three sets of endocrine outputs [5] which include the magnocellular system, the parvocellular system, and autonomic intervention. The magnocellular is involved in the expression of oxytocin or vasopressin. The parvocellular is involved in controlling the secretion of hormones from the anterior pituitary.

Anterior Pituitary: The main role of the anterior pituitary gland is to produce and secrete tropic hormones. [6] Some examples of tropic hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary gland include TSH, ACTH, GH, LH, and FSH.


There are many types of cells that make up the endocrine system and these cells typically make up larger tissues and organs that function within and outside of the endocrine system.


The fetal endocrine system is one of the first systems to develop during prenatal development.

Adrenal glands

The fetal adrenal cortex can be identified within four weeks of gestation. The adrenal cortex originates from the thickening of the intermediate mesoderm. At five to six weeks of gestation, the mesonephros differentiates into a tissue known as the genital ridge. The genital ridge produces the steroidogenic cells for both the gonads and the adrenal cortex. The adrenal medulla is derived from ectodermal cells. Cells that will become adrenal tissue move retroperitoneally to the upper portion of the mesonephros. At seven weeks of gestation, the adrenal cells are joined by sympathetic cells that originate from the neural crest to form the adrenal medulla. At the end of the eighth week, the adrenal glands have been encapsulated and have formed a distinct organ above the developing kidneys. At birth, the adrenal glands weigh approximately eight to nine grams (twice that of the adult adrenal glands) and are 0.5% of the total body weight. At 25 weeks, the adult adrenal cortex zone develops and is responsible for the primary synthesis of steroids during the early postnatal weeks.

Thyroid gland

The thyroid gland develops from two different clusterings of embryonic cells. One part is from the thickening of the pharyngeal floor, which serves as the precursor of the thyroxine (T4) producing follicular cells. The other part is from the caudal extensions of the fourth pharyngobranchial pouches which results in the parafollicular calcitonin-secreting cells. These two structures are apparent by 16 to 17 days of gestation. Around the 24th day of gestation, the foramen cecum, a thin, flask-like diverticulum of the median anlage develops. At approximately 24 to 32 days of gestation the median anlage develops into a bilobed structure. By 50 days of gestation, the medial and lateral anlage have fused together. At 12 weeks of gestation, the fetal thyroid is capable of storing iodine for the production of TRH, TSH, and free thyroid hormone. At 20 weeks, the fetus is able to implement feedback mechanisms for the production of thyroid hormones. During fetal development, T4 is the major thyroid hormone being produced while triiodothyronine (T3) and its inactive derivative, reverse T3, are not detected until the third trimester.

Parathyroid glands

A lateral and ventral view of an embryo showing the third (inferior) and fourth (superior) parathyroid glands during the 6th week of embryogenesis

Once the embryo reaches four weeks of gestation, the parathyroid glands begins to develop. The human embryo forms five sets of endoderm-lined pharyngeal pouches. The third and fourth pouch are responsible for developing into the inferior and superior parathyroid glands, respectively. The third pharyngeal pouch encounters the developing thyroid gland and they migrate down to the lower poles of the thyroid lobes. The fourth pharyngeal pouch later encounters the developing thyroid gland and migrates to the upper poles of the thyroid lobes. At 14 weeks of gestation, the parathyroid glands begin to enlarge from 0.1 mm in diameter to approximately 1 – 2 mm at birth. The developing parathyroid glands are physiologically functional beginning in the second trimester.

Studies in mice have shown that interfering with the HOX15 gene can cause parathyroid gland aplasia, which suggests the gene plays an important role in the development of the parathyroid gland. The genes, TBX1, CRKL, GATA3, GCM2, and SOX3 have also been shown to play a crucial role in the formation of the parathyroid gland. Mutations in TBX1 and CRKL genes are correlated with DiGeorge syndrome, while mutations in GATA3 have also resulted in a DiGeorge-like syndrome. Malformations in the GCM2 gene have resulted in hypoparathyroidism. Studies on SOX3 gene mutations have demonstrated that it plays a role in parathyroid development. These mutations also lead to varying degrees of hypopituitarism.


The human fetal pancreas begins to develop by the fourth week of gestation. Five weeks later, the pancreatic alpha and beta cells have begun to emerge. Reaching eight to ten weeks into development, the pancreas starts producing insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide. During the early stages of fetal development, the number of pancreatic alpha cells outnumbers the number of pancreatic beta cells. The alpha cells reach their peak in the middle stage of gestation. From the middle stage until term, the beta cells continue to increase in number until they reach an approximate 1:1 ratio with the alpha cells. The insulin concentration within the fetal pancreas is 3.6 pmol/g at seven to ten weeks, which rises to 30 pmol/g at 16–25 weeks of gestation. Near term, the insulin concentration increases to 93 pmol/g. The endocrine cells have dispersed throughout the body within 10 weeks. At 31 weeks of development, the islets of Langerhans have differentiated.

While the fetal pancreas has functional beta cells by 14 to 24 weeks of gestation, the amount of insulin that is released into the bloodstream is relatively low. In a study of pregnant women carrying fetuses in the mid-gestation and near term stages of development, the fetuses did not have an increase in plasma insulin levels in response to injections of high levels of glucose. In contrast to insulin, the fetal plasma glucagon levels are relatively high and continue to increase during development. At the mid-stage of gestation, the glucagon concentration is 6 μg/g, compared to 2 μg/g in adult humans. Just like insulin, fetal glucagon plasma levels do not change in response to an infusion of glucose. However, a study of an infusion of alanine into pregnant women was shown to increase the cord blood and maternal glucagon concentrations, demonstrating a fetal response to amino acid exposure.

As such, while the fetal pancreatic alpha and beta islet cells have fully developed and are capable of hormone synthesis during the remaining fetal maturation, the islet cells are relatively immature in their capacity to produce glucagon and insulin. This is thought to be a result of the relatively stable levels of fetal serum glucose concentrations achieved via maternal transfer of glucose through the placenta. On the other hand, the stable fetal serum glucose levels could be attributed to the absence of pancreatic signaling initiated by incretins during feeding. In addition, the fetal pancreatic islets cells are unable to sufficiently produce cAMP and rapidly degrade cAMP by phosphodiesterase necessary to secrete glucagon and insulin.

During fetal development, the storage of glycogen is controlled by fetal glucocorticoids and placental lactogen. Fetal insulin is responsible for increasing glucose uptake and lipogenesis during the stages leading up to birth. Fetal cells contain a higher amount of insulin receptors in comparison to adults cells and fetal insulin receptors are not downregulated in cases of hyperinsulinemia. In comparison, fetal haptic glucagon receptors are lowered in comparison to adult cells and the glycemic effect of glucagon is blunted. This temporary physiological change aids the increased rate of fetal development during the final trimester. Poorly managed maternal diabetes mellitus is linked to fetal macrosomia, increased risk of miscarriage, and defects in fetal development. Maternal hyperglycemia is also linked to increased insulin levels and beta cell hyperplasia in the post-term infant. Children of diabetic mothers are at an increased risk for conditions such as: polycythemia, renal vein thrombosis, hypocalcemia, respiratory distress syndrome, jaundice, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, and improper organ development.


The reproductive system begins development at four to five weeks of gestation with germ cell migration. The bipotential gonad results from the collection of the medioventral region of the urogenital ridge. At the five-week point, the developing gonads break away from the adrenal primordium. Gonadal differentiation begins 42 days following conception.

Male gonadal development

For males, the testes form at six fetal weeks and the sertoli cells begin developing by the eight week of gestation. SRY, the sex-determining locus, serves to differentiate the Sertoli cells. The Sertoli cells are the point of origin for anti-Müllerian hormone. Once synthesized, the anti-Müllerian hormone initiates the ipsilateral regression of the Müllerian tract and inhibits the development of female internal features. At 10 weeks of gestation, the Leydig cells begin to produce androgen hormones. The androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone is responsible for the development of the male external genitalia.

The testicles descend during prenatal development in a two-stage process that begins at eight weeks of gestation and continues through the middle of the third trimester. During the transabdominal stage (8 to 15 weeks of gestation), the gubernacular ligament contracts and begins to thicken. The craniosuspensory ligament begins to break down. This stage is regulated by the secretion of insulin-like 3 (INSL3), a relaxin-like factor produced by the testicles, and the INSL3 G-coupled receptor, LGR8. During the transinguinal phase (25 to 35 weeks of gestation), the testicles descend into the scrotum. This stage is regulated by androgens, the genitofemoral nerve, and calcitonin gene-related peptide. During the second and third trimester, testicular development concludes with the diminution of the fetal Leydig cells and the lengthening and coiling of the seminiferous cords.

Female gonadal development

For females, the ovaries become morphologically visible by the 8th week of gestation. The absence of testosterone results in the diminution of the Wolffian structures. The Müllerian structures remain and develop into the fallopian tubes, uterus, and the upper region of the vagina. The urogenital sinus develops into the urethra and lower region of the vagina, the genital tubercle develops into the clitoris, the urogenital folds develop into the labia minora, and the urogenital swellings develop into the labia majora. At 16 weeks of gestation, the ovaries produce FSH and LH/hCG receptors. At 20 weeks of gestation, the theca cell precursors are present and oogonia mitosis is occurring. At 25 weeks of gestation, the ovary is morphologically defined and folliculogenesis can begin.

Studies of gene expression show that a specific complement of genes, such as follistatin and multiple cyclin kinase inhibitors are involved in ovarian development. An assortment of genes and proteins - such as WNT4, RSPO1, FOXL2, and various estrogen receptors - have been shown to prevent the development of testicles or the lineage of male-type cells.

Pituitary gland

The pituitary gland is formed within the rostral neural plate. The Rathke's pouch, a cavity of ectodermal cells of the oropharynx, forms between the fourth and fifth week of gestation and upon full development, it gives rise to the anterior pituitary gland. By seven weeks of gestation, the anterior pituitary vascular system begins to develop. During the first 12 weeks of gestation, the anterior pituitary undergoes cellular differentiation. At 20 weeks of gestation, the hypophyseal portal system has developed. The Rathke's pouch grows towards the third ventricle and fuses with the diverticulum. This eliminates the lumen and the structure becomes Rathke's cleft. The posterior pituitary lobe is formed from the diverticulum. Portions of the pituitary tissue may remain in the nasopharyngeal midline. In rare cases this results in functioning ectopic hormone-secreting tumors in the nasopharynx.

The functional development of the anterior pituitary involves spatiotemporal regulation of transcription factors expressed in pituitary stem cells and dynamic gradients of local soluble factors. The coordination of the dorsal gradient of pituitary morphogenesis is dependent on neuroectodermal signals from the infundibular bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4). This protein is responsible for the development of the initial invagination of the Rathke's pouch. Other essential proteins necessary for pituitary cell proliferation are Fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8), Wnt4, and Wnt5. Ventral developmental patterning and the expression of transcription factors is influenced by the gradients of BMP2 and sonic hedgehog protein (SHH). These factors are essential for coordinating early patterns of cell proliferation.

Six weeks into gestation, the corticotroph cells can be identified. By seven weeks of gestation, the anterior pituitary is capable of secreting ACTH. Within eight weeks of gestation, somatotroph cells begin to develop with cytoplasmic expression of human growth hormone. Once a fetus reaches 12 weeks of development, the thyrotrophs begin expression of Beta subunits for TSH, while gonadotrophs being to express beta-subunits for LH and FSH. Male fetuses predominately produced LH-expressing gonadotrophs, while female fetuses produce an equal expression of LH and FSH expressing gonadotrophs. At 24 weeks of gestation, prolactin-expressing lactotrophs begin to emerge.



A hormone is any of a class of signaling molecules produced by cells in glands in multicellular organisms that are transported by the circulatory system to target distant organs to regulate physiology and behaviour. Hormones have diverse chemical structures, mainly of 3 classes: eicosanoids, steroids, and amino acid/protein derivatives (amines, peptides, and proteins). The glands that secrete hormones comprise the endocrine system. The term hormone is sometimes extended to include chemicals produced by cells that affect the same cell (autocrine or intracrine signalling) or nearby cells (paracrine signalling).

Hormones are used to communicate between organs and tissues for physiological regulation and behavioral activities, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, lactation, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood. [12] [13]

Hormones affect distant cells by binding to specific receptor proteins in the target cell resulting in a change in cell function. This may lead to cell type-specific responses that include rapid changes to the activity of existing proteins, or slower changes in the expression of target genes. Amino acid–based hormones (amines and peptide or protein hormones) are water-soluble and act on the surface of target cells via signal transduction pathways; steroid hormones, being lipid-soluble, move through the plasma membranes of target cells to act within their nuclei.

Cell signalling

The typical mode of cell signalling in the endocrine system is endocrine signaling, that is, using the circulatory system to reach distant target organs. However, there are also other modes, i.e., paracrine, autocrine, and neuroendocrine signaling. Purely neurocrine signaling between neurons, on the other hand, belongs completely to the nervous system.


Autocrine signaling is a form of signaling in which a cell secretes a hormone or chemical messenger (called the autocrine agent) that binds to autocrine receptors on the same cell, leading to changes in the cells.


Some endocrinologists and clinicians include the paracrine system as part of the endocrine system, but there is not consensus. Paracrines are slower acting, targeting cells in the same tissue or organ. An example of this is somatostatin which is released by some pancreatic cells and targets other pancreatic cells. [3]


Juxtacrine signaling is a type of intercellular communication that is transmitted via oligosaccharide, lipid, or protein components of a cell membrane, and may affect either the emitting cell or the immediately adjacent cells. [14]

It occurs between adjacent cells that possess broad patches of closely opposed plasma membrane linked by transmembrane channels known as connexons. The gap between the cells can usually be between only 2 and 4 nm. [15]

Clinical significance


Disability-adjusted life year for endocrine disorders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2002:
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No data
Less than 80
More than 1000 Endocrine disorders world map - DALY - WHO2002.svg
Disability-adjusted life year for endocrine disorders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2002:
  No data
  Less than 80
  More than 1000

Diseases of the endocrine system are common, [17] including conditions such as diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, and obesity. Endocrine disease is characterized by misregulated hormone release (a productive pituitary adenoma), inappropriate response to signaling (hypothyroidism), lack of a gland (diabetes mellitus type 1, diminished erythropoiesis in chronic kidney failure), or structural enlargement in a critical site such as the thyroid (toxic multinodular goitre). Hypofunction of endocrine glands can occur as a result of loss of reserve, hyposecretion, agenesis, atrophy, or active destruction. Hyperfunction can occur as a result of hypersecretion, loss of suppression, hyperplastic or neoplastic change, or hyperstimulation.

Endocrinopathies are classified as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary endocrine disease inhibits the action of downstream glands. Secondary endocrine disease is indicative of a problem with the pituitary gland. Tertiary endocrine disease is associated with dysfunction of the hypothalamus and its releasing hormones. [18]

As the thyroid, and hormones have been implicated in signaling distant tissues to proliferate, for example, the estrogen receptor has been shown to be involved in certain breast cancers. Endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine signaling have all been implicated in proliferation, one of the required steps of oncogenesis. [19]

Other common diseases that result from endocrine dysfunction include Addison's disease, Cushing's disease and Graves' disease. Cushing's disease and Addison's disease are pathologies involving the dysfunction of the adrenal gland. Dysfunction in the adrenal gland could be due to primary or secondary factors and can result in hypercortisolism or hypocortisolism. Cushing's disease is characterized by the hypersecretion of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) due to a pituitary adenoma that ultimately causes endogenous hypercortisolism by stimulating the adrenal glands. [20] Some clinical signs of Cushing's disease include obesity, moon face, and hirsutism. [21] Addison's disease is an endocrine disease that results from hypocortisolism caused by adrenal gland insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is significant because it is correlated with decreased ability to maintain blood pressure and blood sugar, a defect that can prove to be fatal. [22]

Graves' disease involves the hyperactivity of the thyroid gland which produces the T3 and T4 hormones. [21] Graves' disease effects range from excess sweating, fatigue, heat intolerance and high blood pressure to swelling of the eyes that causes redness, puffiness and in rare cases reduced or double vision. [15]

Other animals

A neuroendocrine system has been observed in all animals with a nervous system and all vertebrates have a hypothalamus–pituitary axis. [23] All vertebrates have a thyroid, which in amphibians is also crucial for transformation of larvae into adult form. [24] [25] All vertebrates have adrenal gland tissue, with mammals unique in having it organized into layers. [26] All vertebrates have some form of a renin–angiotensin axis, and all tetrapods have aldosterone as a primary mineralocorticoid. [27] [28]

Additional images

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endocrinology</span> Branch of medicine dealing the endocrine system

Endocrinology is a branch of biology and medicine dealing with the endocrine system, its diseases, and its specific secretions known as hormones. It is also concerned with the integration of developmental events proliferation, growth, and differentiation, and the psychological or behavioral activities of metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sleep, digestion, respiration, excretion, mood, stress, lactation, movement, reproduction, and sensory perception caused by hormones. Specializations include behavioral endocrinology and comparative endocrinology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hormone</span> Biological signalling molecule

A hormone is a class of signaling molecules in multicellular organisms that are sent to distant organs or tissues by complex biological processes to regulate physiology and behavior. Hormones are required for the correct development of animals, plants and fungi. Due to the broad definition of a hormone, numerous kinds of molecules can be classified as hormones. Among the substances that can be considered hormones, are eicosanoids, steroids, amino acid derivatives, protein or peptides, and gases.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pancreas</span> Organ of the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates

The pancreas is an organ of the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates. In humans, it is located in the abdomen behind the stomach and functions as a gland. The pancreas is a mixed or heterocrine gland, i.e., it has both an endocrine and a digestive exocrine function. 99% of the pancreas is exocrine and 1% is endocrine. As an endocrine gland, it functions mostly to regulate blood sugar levels, secreting the hormones insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide. As a part of the digestive system, it functions as an exocrine gland secreting pancreatic juice into the duodenum through the pancreatic duct. This juice contains bicarbonate, which neutralizes acid entering the duodenum from the stomach; and digestive enzymes, which break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats in food entering the duodenum from the stomach.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pituitary gland</span> Endocrine gland at the base of the brain

The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland in vertebrates. In humans, the pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain, protruding off the bottom of the hypothalamus. The human pituitary gland is oval shaped, about the size of a chickpea, and weighs 0.5 grams (0.018 oz) on average.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hypothalamus</span> Area of the brain below the thalamus

The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that contains a number of nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus is located below the thalamus and is part of the limbic system. It forms the ventral part of the diencephalon. All vertebrate brains contain a hypothalamus. In humans, it is the size of an almond.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Secretin</span> Hormone involved in stomach, pancreas and liver secretions

Secretin is a hormone that regulates water homeostasis throughout the body and influences the environment of the duodenum by regulating secretions in the stomach, pancreas, and liver. It is a peptide hormone produced in the S cells of the duodenum, which are located in the intestinal glands. In humans, the secretin peptide is encoded by the SCT gene.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anterior pituitary</span> Anterior lobe of the pituitary gland

A major organ of the endocrine system, the anterior pituitary is the glandular, anterior lobe that together with the posterior lobe makes up the pituitary gland (hypophysis) which, in humans, is located at the base of the brain, protruding off the bottom of the hypothalamus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adrenal insufficiency</span> Medical condition

Adrenal insufficiency is a condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce adequate amounts of steroid hormones. The adrenal glands—also referred to as the adrenal cortex—normally secrete glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, and androgens. These hormones are important in regulating blood pressure, electrolytes, and metabolism as a whole. Deficiency of these hormones leads to symptoms ranging from abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle weakness and fatigue, low blood pressure, depression, mood and personality changes to organ failure and shock. Adrenal crisis may occur if a person having adrenal insufficiency experiences stresses, such as an accident, injury, surgery, or severe infection; this is a life-threatening medical condition resulting from severe deficiency of cortisol in the body. Death may quickly follow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endocrine gland</span> Glands of the endocrine system that secrete hormones to blood

Endocrine glands are ductless glands of the endocrine system that secrete their products, hormones, directly into the blood. The major glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are neuroendocrine organs.

Neuroendocrine cells are cells that receive neuronal input and, as a consequence of this input, release messenger molecules (hormones) into the blood. In this way they bring about an integration between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a process known as neuroendocrine integration. An example of a neuroendocrine cell is a cell of the adrenal medulla, which releases adrenaline to the blood. The adrenal medullary cells are controlled by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. These cells are modified postganglionic neurons. Autonomic nerve fibers lead directly to them from the central nervous system. The adrenal medullary hormones are kept in vesicles much in the same way neurotransmitters are kept in neuronal vesicles. Hormonal effects can last up to ten times longer than those of neurotransmitters. Sympathetic nerve fiber impulses stimulate the release of adrenal medullary hormones. In this way the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and the medullary secretions function together.

Neuroendocrinology is the branch of biology which studies the interaction between the nervous system and the endocrine system; i.e. how the brain regulates the hormonal activity in the body. The nervous and endocrine systems often act together in a process called neuroendocrine integration, to regulate the physiological processes of the human body. Neuroendocrinology arose from the recognition that the brain, especially the hypothalamus, controls secretion of pituitary gland hormones, and has subsequently expanded to investigate numerous interconnections of the endocrine and nervous systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1</span> Medical condition

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1) is one of a group of disorders, the multiple endocrine neoplasias, that affect the endocrine system through development of neoplastic lesions in pituitary, parathyroid gland and pancreas. Individuals suffering from this disorder are prone to developing multiple endocrine and nonendocrine tumors. It was first described by Paul Wermer in 1954.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hypophyseal portal system</span> System of blood vessels

The hypophyseal portal system is a system of blood vessels in the microcirculation at the base of the brain, connecting the hypothalamus with the anterior pituitary. Its main function is to quickly transport and exchange hormones between the hypothalamus arcuate nucleus and anterior pituitary gland. The capillaries in the portal system are fenestrated which allows a rapid exchange between the hypothalamus and the pituitary. The main hormones transported by the system include gonadotropin-releasing hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone, growth hormone–releasing hormone, and thyrotropin-releasing hormone.

Non-tropic hormones are hormones that directly stimulate target cells to induce effects. This differs from the tropic hormones, which act on another endocrine gland. Non-tropic hormones are those that act directly on targeted tissues or cells, and not on other endocrine gland to stimulate release of other hormones. Many hormones act in a chain reaction. Tropic hormones usually act in the beginning of the reaction stimulating other endocrine gland to eventually release non-tropic hormones. These are the ones that act in the end of the chain reaction on other cells that are not part of other endocrine gland. The Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is a perfect example of this chain reaction. The reaction begins in the hypothalamus with a release of corticotropin-releasing hormone/factor. This stimulates the anterior pituitary and causes it to release Adrenocorticotropic hormone to the adrenal glands. Lastly, cortisol (non-tropic) is secreted from the adrenal glands and goes into the bloodstream where it can have more widespread effects on organs and tissues. Since cortisol is what finally reaches other tissues in the body, it is a non-tropic hormone. CRH and ACTH are tropic hormones because they act on the anterior pituitary gland and adrenal glands, respectively, both of which are endocrine glands. Non-tropic hormones are thus often the last piece of a larger process and chain of hormone secretion. Both tropic and non-tropic hormones are necessary for proper endocrine function. For example, if ACTH is inhibited, cortisol can no longer be released because the chain reaction has been interrupted. Some examples of non-tropic hormones are:

An endocrine bone disease is a bone disease associated with a disorder of the endocrine system. An example is osteitis fibrosa cystica.

Hypothalamic disease is a disorder presenting primarily in the hypothalamus, which may be caused by damage resulting from malnutrition, including anorexia and bulimia eating disorders, genetic disorders, radiation, surgery, head trauma, lesion, tumour or other physical injury to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the control center for several endocrine functions. Endocrine systems controlled by the hypothalamus are regulated by antidiuretic hormone (ADH), corticotropin-releasing hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, growth hormone-releasing hormone, oxytocin, all of which are secreted by the hypothalamus. Damage to the hypothalamus may impact any of these hormones and the related endocrine systems. Many of these hypothalamic hormones act on the pituitary gland. Hypothalamic disease therefore affects the functioning of the pituitary and the target organs controlled by the pituitary, including the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, and the thyroid gland.

The fetal endocrine system is one of the first systems to develop during prenatal development of a human individual. The endocrine system arises from all three embryonic germ layers. The endocrine glands that produce the steroid hormones, such as the gonads and adrenal cortex, arise from the mesoderm. In contrast, endocrine glands that arise from the endoderm and ectoderm produce the amine, peptide, and protein hormones.

Pulsatile secretion is a biochemical phenomenon observed in a wide variety of cell and tissue types, in which chemical products are secreted in a regular temporal pattern. The most common cellular products observed to be released in this manner are intercellular signaling molecules such as hormones or neurotransmitters. Examples of hormones that are secreted pulsatilely include insulin, thyrotropin, TRH, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and growth hormone (GH). In the nervous system, pulsatility is observed in oscillatory activity from central pattern generators. In the heart, pacemakers are able to work and secrete in a pulsatile manner. A pulsatile secretion pattern is critical to the function of many hormones in order to maintain the delicate homeostatic balance necessary for essential life processes, such as development and reproduction. Variations of the concentration in a certain frequency can be critical to hormone function, as evidenced by the case of GnRH agonists, which cause functional inhibition of the receptor for GnRH due to profound downregulation in response to constant (tonic) stimulation. Pulsatility may function to sensitize target tissues to the hormone of interest and upregulate receptors, leading to improved responses. This heightened response may have served to improve the animal's fitness in its environment and promote its evolutionary retention.

Heterocrine glands are the glands which function as both exocrine gland and endocrine gland. These glands exhibit a unique and diverse secretory function encompassing the release of proteins and non-proteinaceous compounds, endocrine and exocrine secretions into both the bloodstream and ducts respectively, thereby bridging the realms of internal and external communication within the body. This duality allows them to serve crucial roles in regulating various physiological processes and maintaining homeostasis. These include the gonads, pancreas and salivary glands.


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