The endocrine system is a chemical messenger system consisting of hormones, the group of glands of an organism that secrete those hormones directly into the circulatory system to regulate the function of distant target organs, and the feedback loops which modulate hormone release so that homeostasis is maintained. In humans, the major endocrine glands are the thyroid gland and the adrenal glands. In vertebrates, the hypothalamus is the neural control center for all endocrine systems. The study of the endocrine system and its disorders is known as endocrinology. Endocrinology is a branch of internal medicine.
Special features of endocrine glands are, in general, their ductless nature, their vascularity, and commonly the presence of intracellular vacuoles or granules that store their hormones. In contrast, exocrine glands, such as salivary glands, sweat glands, and glands within the gastrointestinal tract, tend to be much less vascular and have ducts or a hollow lumen. A number of glands that signal each other in sequence are usually referred to as an axis, for example, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
In addition to the specialized endocrine organs mentioned above, many other organs that are part of other body systems, such as bone, kidney, liver, heart and gonads, have secondary endocrine functions. For example, the kidney secretes endocrine hormones such as erythropoietin and renin. Hormones can consist of either amino acid complexes, steroids, eicosanoids, leukotrienes, or prostaglandins.
The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its hormones to the outside of the body using ducts. As opposed to endocrine factors that travel considerably longer distances via the circulatory system, other signaling molecules, such as paracrine factors involved in paracrine signalling diffuse over a relatively short distance.
Main glands of the endocrine system. Note that the thymus is no longer considered part of the endocrine system, as it does not produce hormones.
Endocrine glands are glands of the endocrine system that secrete their products, hormones, directly into interstitial spaces and then 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.
There are many types of cells that comprise the endocrine system and these cells typically make up larger tissues and organs that function within and outside of the endocrine system.
A hormone is any of a class of signaling molecules produced by 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Diseases of the endocrine system are common, 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 renal 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.
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.
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. Some clinical signs of Cushing's disease include obesity, moon face, and hirsutism. 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.
Graves' disease involves the hyperactivity of the thyroid gland which produces the T3 and T4 hormones. 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.
A neuroendocrine system has been observed in all animals with a nervous system and all vertebrates have an hypothalamus-pituitary axis. All vertebrates have a thyroid, which in amphibians is also crucial for transformation of larvae into adult form. All vertebrates have adrenal gland tissue, with mammals unique in having it organized into layers. All vertebrates have some form of a renin–angiotensin axis, and all tetrapods have aldosterone as a primary mineralocorticoid.
Alifedrine is a partial beta-adrenergic agonist.Anterior pituitary
A major organ of the endocrine system, the anterior pituitary (also called the adenohypophysis or pars anterior), is the glandular, anterior lobe that together with the posterior lobe (posterior pituitary, or the neurohypophysis) makes up the pituitary gland (hypophysis). The anterior pituitary regulates several physiological processes including stress, growth, reproduction and lactation. Proper functioning of the anterior pituitary and of the organs it regulates can often be ascertained via blood tests that measure hormone levels.Egg cell
The egg cell, or ovum (plural ova), is the female reproductive cell (gamete) in oogamous organisms. The egg cell is typically not capable of active movement, and it is much larger (visible to the naked eye) than the motile sperm cells. When egg and sperm fuse, a diploid cell (the zygote) is formed, which rapidly grows into a new organism.Empty sella syndrome
Empty sella syndrome (ESS) is where the pituitary gland shrinks or becomes flattened, filling the sella turcica with cerebrospinal fluid on imaging instead of the normal pituitary. ESS can be found in the diagnostic workup of pituitary disorders, or as an incidental finding when imaging the brain.Endocrine disease
Endocrine diseases are disorders of the endocrine system. The branch of medicine associated with endocrine disorders is known as endocrinology.Endocrine gland
Endocrine glands are glands of the endocrine system that secrete their products, hormones, directly into the 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.Endocrine gland neoplasm
An endocrine gland neoplasm is a neoplasm affecting one or more glands of the endocrine system.
Pituitary adenomaThe most common form is thyroid cancer.Condition such as pancreatic cancer or ovarian cancer can be considered endocrine tumors, or classified under other systems.
Pinealoma is often grouped with brain tumors because of its location.Endocrinology
Endocrinology (from endocrine + -ology) 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.
The endocrine system consists of several glands, all in different parts of the body, that secrete hormones directly into the blood rather than into a duct system. Hormones have many different functions and modes of action; one hormone may have several effects on different target organs, and, conversely, one target organ may be affected by more than one hormone.Enteroendocrine cell
Enteroendocrine cells are specialized cells of the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas with endocrine function. They produce gastrointestinal hormones or peptides in response to various stimuli and release them into the bloodstream for systemic effect, diffuse them as local messengers, or transmit them to the enteric nervous system to activate nervous responses. Enteroendocrine cells of the intestine are the most numerous endocrine cells of the body. They constitute an enteric endocrine system as a subset of the endocrine system just as the enteric nervous system is a subset of the nervous system. In a sense they are known to act as chemoreceptors, initiating digestive actions and detecting harmful substances and initiating protective responses. Enteroendocrine cells are located in the stomach, in the intestine and in the pancreas.Gonad
A gonad, sex gland, or reproductive gland is a mixed gland that produces the gametes (sex cells) and sex hormones of an organism. In the female of the species the reproductive cells are the egg cells, and in the male the reproductive cells are the sperm. The male gonad, the testicle, produces sperm in the form of spermatozoa. The female gonad, the ovary, produces egg cells. Both of these gametes are haploid cells.Hormone
A hormone (from the Greek participle “ὁρμῶ”, "to arouse") is any member of a class of signaling molecules produced by glands in multicellular organisms that are transported by the circulatory system to target distant organs to regulate physiology and behavior. Hormones have diverse chemical structures, mainly of three classes: eicosanoids, steroids, and amino acid/protein derivatives (amines, peptides, and proteins). The glands that secrete hormones comprise the endocrine signaling 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. Hormones affect distant cells by binding to specific receptor proteins in the target cell resulting in a change in cell function. When a hormone binds to the receptor, it results in the activation of a signal transduction pathway that typically activates gene transcription resulting in increased expression of target proteins; non-genomic effects are more rapid, and can be synergistic with genomic effects. Amino acid–based hormones (amines and peptide or protein hormones) are water-soluble and act on the surface of target cells via second messengers; steroid hormones, being lipid-soluble, move through the plasma membranes of target cells (both cytoplasmic and nuclear) to act within their nuclei.
Hormone secretion may occur in many tissues. Endocrine glands are the cardinal example, but specialized cells in various other organs also secrete hormones. Hormone secretion occurs in response to specific biochemical signals from a wide range of regulatory systems. For instance, serum calcium concentration affects parathyroid hormone synthesis; blood sugar (serum glucose concentration) affects insulin synthesis; and because the outputs of the stomach and exocrine pancreas (the amounts of gastric juice and pancreatic juice) become the input of the small intestine, the small intestine secretes hormones to stimulate or inhibit the stomach and pancreas based on how busy it is. Regulation of hormone synthesis of gonadal hormones, adrenocortical hormones, and thyroid hormones is often dependent on complex sets of direct influence and feedback interactions involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA), -gonadal (HPG), and -thyroid (HPT) axes.
Upon secretion, certain hormones, including protein hormones and catecholamines, are water-soluble and are thus readily transported through the circulatory system. Other hormones, including steroid and thyroid hormones, are lipid-soluble; to allow for their widespread distribution, these hormones must bond to carrier plasma glycoproteins (e.g., thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG)) to form ligand-protein complexes. Some hormones are completely active when released into the bloodstream (as is the case for insulin and growth hormones), while others are prohormones that must be activated in specific cells through a series of activation steps that are commonly highly regulated. The endocrine system secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream, typically via fenestrated capillaries, whereas the exocrine system secretes its hormones indirectly using ducts. Hormones with paracrine function diffuse through the interstitial spaces to nearby target tissue.Human skeleton
The human skeleton is the internal framework of the body. It is composed of around 270 bones at birth – this total decreases to around 206 bones by adulthood after some bones get fused together. The bone mass in the skeleton reaches maximum density around age 21. The human skeleton can be divided into the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton is formed by the vertebral column, the rib cage, the skull and other associated bones. The appendicular skeleton, which is attached to the axial skeleton, is formed by the shoulder girdle, the pelvic girdle and the bones of the upper and lower limbs.
The human skeleton performs six major functions; support, movement, protection, production of blood cells, storage of minerals, and endocrine regulation.
The human skeleton is not as sexually dimorphic as that of many other primate species, but subtle differences between sexes in the morphology of the skull, dentition, long bones, and pelvis exist. In general, female skeletal elements tend to be smaller and less robust than corresponding male elements within a given population. The human female pelvis is also different from that of males in order to facilitate childbirth. Unlike most primates, human males do not have penile bones.Hypothalamus
The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus 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. In the terminology of neuroanatomy, it forms the ventral part of the diencephalon. All vertebrate brains contain a hypothalamus. In humans, it is the size of an almond.
The hypothalamus is responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. It synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, called releasing hormones or hypothalamic hormones, and these in turn stimulate or inhibit the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland.
The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. The hypothalamus derives its name from Greek ὑπό, under and θάλαμος, chamber.Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2
Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) (also known as "Pheochromocytoma and amyloid producing medullary thyroid carcinoma", "PTC syndrome," and "Sipple syndrome") is a group of medical disorders associated with tumors of the endocrine system. The tumors may be benign or malignant (cancer). They generally occur in endocrine organs (e.g. thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenals), but may also occur in endocrine tissues of organs not classically thought of as endocrine.MEN2 is a sub-type of MEN (multiple endocrine neoplasia) and itself has sub-types, as discussed below.Pituitary disease
A pituitary disease is a disorder primarily affecting the pituitary gland.The main disorders involving the pituitary gland are:
Overproduction or underproduction of a pituitary hormone will affect the respective end-organ. For example, insufficient production (hyposecretion) of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the pituitary gland will cause hypothyroidism, while overproduction (hypersecretion) of TSH will cause hyperthyroidism. Thyroidisms caused by the pituitary gland are less common though, accounting for less than 10% of all hypothyroidism cases and much less than 1% of hyperthyroidism cases.Pituitary gland
In vertebrate anatomy, the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, is an endocrine gland about the size of a pea and weighing 0.5 grams (0.018 oz) in humans. It is a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. The hypophysis rests upon the hypophysial fossa of the sphenoid bone in the center of the middle cranial fossa and is surrounded by a small bony cavity (sella turcica) covered by a dural fold (diaphragma sellae). The anterior pituitary (or adenohypophysis) is a lobe of the gland that regulates several physiological processes (including stress, growth, reproduction, and lactation). The intermediate lobe synthesizes and secretes melanocyte-stimulating hormone. The posterior pituitary (or neurohypophysis) is a lobe of the gland that is functionally connected to the hypothalamus by the median eminence via a small tube called the pituitary stalk (also called the infundibular stalk or the infundibulum).
Hormones secreted from the pituitary gland help in controlling growth, blood pressure, energy management, all functions of the sex organs, thyroid glands and metabolism as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, water/salt concentration at the kidneys, temperature regulation and pain relief.Posterior pituitary
The posterior pituitary (or neurohypophysis) is the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland which is part of the endocrine system. The posterior pituitary is not glandular as is the anterior pituitary. Instead, it is largely a collection of axonal projections from the hypothalamus that terminate behind the anterior pituitary, and serve as a site for the secretion of neurohypophysial hormones (oxytocin and vasopressin) directly into the blood. The hypothalamic–neurohypophyseal system is composed of the hypothalamus (the paraventricular nucleus and supraoptic nucleus), posterior pituitary, and these axonal projections.Theca interna
Theca interna cells express receptors for luteinizing hormone (LH) to produce androstenedione, which via a few steps, gives the granulosa the precursor for estrogen manufacturing.
After rupture of the mature ovarian follicle, the theca interna cells differentiate into the theca lutein cells of the corpus luteum. Theca lutein cells secrete androgens and progesterone. Theca lutein cells are also known as small luteal cells.Thyroid dysgenesis
Thyroid dysgenesis or thyroid agenesis is a cause of congenital hypothyroidism where the thyroid is missing, ectopic, or severely underdeveloped.
It should not be confused with iodine deficiency, or with other forms of congenital hypothyroidism, such as thyroid dyshormonogenesis, where the thyroid is present but not functioning correctly.
Congenital hypothyroidism caused by thyroid dysgenesis can be associated with PAX8.