Regulation of Body Processes

Section Summary

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.