Endocrine Glands

Section Summary

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.