37.1 Types of Hormones
There are three basic types of hormones: lipid-derived, amino acid-derived, and peptide. Lipid-derived hormones are structurally similar to cholesterol and include steroid hormones such as estradiol and testosterone. Amino acid-derived hormones are relatively small molecules and include the adrenal hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. Peptide hormones are polypeptide chains or proteins and include the pituitary hormones, antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin), and oxytocin.
37.2 How Hormones Work
Hormones cause cellular changes by binding to receptors on target cells. The number of receptors on a target cell can increase or decrease in response to hormone activity. Hormones can affect cells directly through intracellular hormone receptors or indirectly through plasma membrane hormone receptors.
Lipid-derived (soluble) hormones can enter the cell by diffusing across the plasma membrane and binding to DNA to regulate gene transcription and to change the cell’s activities by inducing production of proteins that affect, in general, the long-term structure and function of the cell. Lipid insoluble hormones bind to receptors on the plasma membrane surface and trigger a signaling pathway to change the cell’s activities by inducing production of various cell products that affect the cell in the short-term. The hormone is called a first messenger and the cellular component is called a second messenger. G-proteins activate the second messenger (cyclic AMP), triggering the cellular response. Response to hormone binding is amplified as the signaling pathway progresses. Cellular responses to hormones include the production of proteins and enzymes and altered membrane permeability.
37.3 Regulation of Body Processes
Water levels in the body are controlled by antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which is produced in the hypothalamus and triggers the reabsorption of water by the kidneys. Underproduction of ADH can cause diabetes insipidus. Aldosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex of the kidneys, enhances Na+ reabsorption from the extracellular fluids and subsequent water reabsorption by diffusion. The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is one way that aldosterone release is controlled.
The reproductive system is controlled by the gonadotropins follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are produced by the pituitary gland. Gonadotropin release is controlled by the hypothalamic hormone gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). FSH stimulates the maturation of sperm cells in males and is inhibited by the hormone inhibin, while LH stimulates the production of the androgen testosterone. FSH stimulates egg maturation in females, while LH stimulates the production of estrogens and progesterone. Estrogens are a group of steroid hormones produced by the ovaries that trigger the development of secondary sex characteristics in females as well as control the maturation of the ova. In females, the pituitary also produces prolactin, which stimulates milk production after childbirth, and oxytocin, which stimulates uterine contraction during childbirth and milk let-down during suckling.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to rising blood glucose levels and allows cells to utilize blood glucose and store excess glucose for later use. Diabetes mellitus is caused by reduced insulin activity and causes high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia. Glucagon is released by the pancreas in response to low blood glucose levels and stimulates the breakdown of glycogen into glucose, which can be used by the body. The body’s basal metabolic rate is controlled by the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The anterior pituitary produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which controls the release of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland. Iodine is necessary in the production of thyroid hormone, and the lack of iodine can lead to a condition called goiter.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is produced by the parathyroid glands in response to low blood Ca2+ levels. The parafollicular cells of the thyroid produce calcitonin, which reduces blood Ca2+ levels. Growth hormone (GH) is produced by the anterior pituitary and controls the growth rate of muscle and bone. GH action is indirectly mediated by insulin-like growth factors (IGFs). Short-term stress causes the hypothalamus to trigger the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine and norepinephrine, which trigger the fight or flight response. Long-term stress causes the hypothalamus to trigger the anterior pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which causes the release of corticosteroids, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids, from the adrenal cortex.
37.4 Regulation of Hormone Production
Hormone levels are primarily controlled through negative feedback, in which rising levels of a hormone inhibit its further release. The three mechanisms of hormonal release are humoral stimuli, hormonal stimuli, and neural stimuli. Humoral stimuli refers to the control of hormonal release in response to changes in extracellular fluid levels or ion levels. Hormonal stimuli refers to the release of hormones in response to hormones released by other endocrine glands. Neural stimuli refers to the release of hormones in response to neural stimulation.
37.5 Endocrine Glands
The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain and is attached to the hypothalamus by the infundibulum. The anterior pituitary receives products from the hypothalamus by the hypophyseal portal system and produces six hormones. The posterior pituitary is an extension of the brain and releases hormones (antidiuretic hormone and oxytocin) produced by the hypothalamus.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is composed of two lobes connected by the isthmus. The thyroid is made up of follicle cells that produce the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Parafollicular cells of the thyroid produce calcitonin. The parathyroid glands lie on the posterior surface of the thyroid gland and produce parathyroid hormone.
The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and consist of the renal cortex and renal medulla. The adrenal cortex is the outer part of the adrenal gland and produces the corticosteroids, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids. The adrenal medulla is the inner part of the adrenal gland and produces the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine.
The pancreas lies in the abdomen between the stomach and the small intestine. Clusters of endocrine cells in the pancreas form the islets of Langerhans, which are composed of alpha cells that release glucagon and beta cells that release insulin.
Some organs possess endocrine activity as a secondary function but have another primary function. The heart produces the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide, which functions to reduce blood volume, pressure, and Na+ concentration. The gastrointestinal tract produces various hormones that aid in digestion. The kidneys produce renin, calcitriol, and erythropoietin. Adipose tissue produces leptin, which promotes satiety signals in the brain.