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Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Ph.D., is a science editor of Alcohol Health & Research World. Andrzej Bartke, Ph.D., is professor and also chairman of physiology at Southern Illinois College School of Medicine, Carbondale, Illinois
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A plethora of hormones control many type of of the body’s functions, including development and development, metabolism, electrolyte balances, and remanufacturing. Several glands throughout the body produce hormones. The hypothalamus produces numerous releasing and also inhibiting hormones that act on the pituitary gland, stimulating the release of pituitary hormones. Of the pituitary hormones, several act on other glands located in assorted areas of the body, whereas various other pituitary hormones directly affect their tarobtain organs. Other hormone-creating glands throughout the body incorporate the adrenal glands, which mainly produce cortisol; the gonads (i.e., ovaries and also testes), which produce sex hormones; the thyroid, which produces thyroid hormone; the parathyroid, which produces parathyroid hormone; and also the pancreas, which produces insulin and glucagon. Many kind of of these hormones are part of regulatory hormonal cascades entailing a hypothalamic hormone, one or even more pituitary hormones, and also one or even more targain gland also hormones.

Keywords: endocrine function, hormones, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, gonad attribute, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, biochemical device, biological feedback, organic regulation, hypothalamus-pituitary axis, pituitary-adrenal axis, pituitary-thyroid axis, literary works review

For the body to function correctly, its various parts and organs have to connect via each various other to encertain that a continuous inner setting (i.e., homeostasis) is preserved. For instance, neither the body temperature nor the levels of salts and minerals (i.e., electrolytes) in the blood must fluctuate beyond preset borders. Communication among miscellaneous areas of the body also is vital for permitting the organism to respond as necessary to any kind of transforms in the inner and also external environments. Two units help encertain communication: the nervous device and also the hormonal (i.e., neuroendocrine) system. The nervous mechanism mostly permits quick transmission (i.e., within fractions of seconds) of information in between different body regions. Conversely, hormonal communication, which counts on the production and release of hormones from miscellaneous glands and on the carry of those hormones via the bloodstream, is much better suited for situations that require even more widespcheck out and much longer lasting regulatory actions. Hence, the 2 interaction devices match each various other. In addition, both units interact: Stimuli from the nervous system have the right to affect the release of certain hormones and vice versa.

Generally speaking, hormones regulate the development, advancement, and metabolism of the body; the electrolyte composition of bodily fluids; and reproduction. This write-up offers an overview of the hormone units involved in those regulatory processes. The write-up first summarizes some of the fundamental attributes of hormone-mediated communication within the body, then reviews the assorted glands affiliated in those processes and the major hormones they develop. For even more thorough information on those hormones, the reader have to consult endocrinology textbooks (e.g., Constanti et al. 1998; Wilchild et al. 1998). Finally, the short article presents various endocrine devices in which hormones created in numerous organs corun to achieve the wanted regulatory effects. The discussions focus generally on the mechanism responses in normal, healthy people. For information about alcohol’s impacts on some of the hormone units, the reader is described succeeding posts in this issue of Alcohol Health & Research World.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are molecules that are produced by endocrine glands, including the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, gonads, (i.e., testes and ovaries), thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, and pancreas (see number 1). The term “endocrine” implies that in response to particular stimuli, the assets of those glands are released into the bloodstream.1 The hormones then are carried via the blood to their target cells. Some hormones have actually just a few certain targain cells, whereas other hormones impact numerous cell kinds throughout the body. The targain cells for each hormone are characterized by the existence of particular docking molecules (i.e., receptors) for the hormone that are located either on the cell surconfront or inside the cell. The interactivity in between the hormone and also its receptor triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions in the targain cell that eventually modify the cell’s function or activity.

Mechanisms of Action

Several classes of hormones exist, including steroids, amino acid derivatives, and polypeptides and also proteins. Those hormone classes differ in their basic molecular structures (e.g., dimension and chemical properties). As a result of the structural differences, their mechanisms of action (e.g., whether they have the right to enter their tarobtain cells and how they modulate the activity of those cells) also differ. Steroids, which are developed by the gonads and also component of the adrenal gland also (i.e., the adrenal cortex), have actually a molecular framework similar to that of cholesterol. The molecules can enter their taracquire cells and communicate through receptors in the fluid that fills the cell (i.e., the cytoplasm) or in the cell nucleus. The hormone-receptor complexes then bind to certain regions of the cell’s hereditary material (i.e., the DNA), thereby regulating the activity of specific hormone-responsive genes.

Amino acid derivatives are modified versions of some of the structure blocks of proteins. The thyroid gland and also one more area of the adrenal glands (i.e., the adrenal medulla) create this type of hormone (i.e., the amino acid derivatives). Like steroids, amino acid derivatives can enter the cell, wbelow they interact through receptor proteins that are already associated with certain DNA areas. The interaction modifies the activity of the impacted genes.

Polypeptide and protein hormones are chains of amino acids of assorted lengths (from 3 to several hundred amino acids). These hormones are found generally in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pancreas. In some instances, they are obtained from inactive precursors, or pro-hormones, which can be cleaved into one or even more energetic hormones. Due to the fact that of their chemical structure, the polypeptide and also protein hormones cannot enter cells. Instead, they interact via receptors on the cell surchallenge. The interaction initiates biochemical alters in either the cell’s membrane or internal, eventually editing the cell’s activity or feature.

Regulation of Hormone Activity

To preserve the body’s homeostasis and respond appropriately to transforms in the atmosphere, hormone production and secretion must be tightly controlled. To attain this manage, many kind of bodily attributes are regulated not by a single hormone yet by several hormones that control each various other (watch number 2). For instance, for many type of hormone devices, the hypothalamus secretes so-called releasing hormones, which are transported through the blood to the pituitary gland. Tbelow, the releasing hormones induce the production and also secretion of pituitary hormones, which in turn are transported by the blood to their tarobtain glands (e.g., the adrenal glands, gonads, or thyroid). In those glands, the interaction of the pituitary hormones via their particular tarobtain cells results in the release of the hormones that ultimately influence the organs targeted by the hormone cascade.

Constant feedago from the taracquire glands to the hypothalamus and also pituitary gland ensures that the task of the hormone mechanism involved remains within correct borders. Hence, in a lot of instances, negative feedago mechanisms exist by which hormones released by the targain glands influence the pituitary gland and/or hypothalamus (watch number 2). When certain preestablished blood levels of those hormones are reached, the hypothalamus and/or the pituitary ceases hormone release, thereby turning off the cascade. In some instances, a so-dubbed short-loop feedback occurs, in which pituitary hormones directly act back on the hypothalamus.

The sensitivity through which these negative feedago units operate (i.e., the taracquire hormone levels that are compelled to revolve off hypothalamic or pituitary hormone release) deserve to change at various physiological says or stages of life. For instance, the gradual reduction in sensitivity of the hypothalamus and also pituitary to negative feedago by gonadal steroid hormones plays an essential role in sex-related maturation.

Although negative feedago is more prevalent, some hormone systems are managed by positive feedago mechanisms, in which a targain gland also hormone acts ago on the hypothalamus and/or pituitary to increase the release of hormones that stimulate the secretion of the taracquire gland hormone. One such mechanism occurs throughout a woman’s menstrual period: Increasing estrogen levels in the blood temporarily stimulate, fairly than inhilittle, hormone release from the pituitary and also hypothalamus, thereby even more raising estrogen levels and eventually bring about ovulation. Such a system calls for a particular threshold level, but, at which the positive feedago loop is turned off in order to maintain a steady system.

Hormones Produced by the Major Hormone-Producing (i.e., Endocrine) Glands and Their Primary Functions

Endocrine GlandHormoneKey Hormone Function
HypothalamusCorticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)Stimulates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)Stimulates the pituitary to release luteinizing hormone (LH) and also follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH)Stimulates the pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH)Stimulates the release of growth hormone (GH) from the pituitary
SomatostatinInhibits the release of GH from the pituitary
DopamineInhibits the release of prolactin from the pituitary
Anterior pituitary glandACTHStimulates the release of hormones from the adrenal cortex
LHIn womales, stimulates the production of sex hormones (i.e., estrogens) in the ovaries and also in the time of ovulation; in guys, stimulates testosterone production in the testes
FSHIn woguys, stimulates follicle development; in men, stimulates sperm production
TSHStimulates the release of thyroid hormone
GHPromotes the body’s development and also development
ProlactinControls milk manufacturing (i.e., lactation)
Posterior pituitary gland1VasopressinHelps manage the body’s water and electrolyte levels
OxytocinPromotes uterine contractivity in the time of labor and also activates milk ejection in nursing women
Adrenal cortexCortisolHelps regulate carbohydrate, protein, and also lipid metabolism; protects against stress
AldosteroneHelps regulate the body’s water and also electrolyte regulation
TestesTestosteroneStimulates advance of the male reproductive organs, sperm production, and protein anabolism
OvariesEstrogen (produced by the follicle)Stimulates advancement of the female refertile organs
Progesterone (produced by the corpus luteum)Prepares uterus for pregnancy and also mammary glands for lactation
Thyroid glandThyroid hormone (i.e., thyroxine and also triiodothyronine )Controls metabolic processes in all cells
CalcitoninHelps control calcium metabolism (i.e., lowers calcium levels in the blood)
Parathyroid glandParathyroid hormone (PTH)Helps control calcium metabolism (i.e., rises calcium levels in the blood)
PancreasInsulinHelps manage carbohydprice metabolism (i.e., lowers blood sugar levels)
GlucagonHelps control carbohydrate metabolism (i.e., boosts blood sugar levels)

The Hypothalamus and also Its Hormones

The hypothalamus is a little area situated within the brain that controls many type of bodily functions, including eating and also drinking, sexual attributes and also actions, blood pressure and also heart price, body temperature maintenance, the sleep-wake cycle, and emotional claims (e.g., are afraid, pain, anger, and also pleasure). Hypothalamic hormones play pivotal roles in the regulation of many kind of of those functions.

Since the hypothalamus is part of the central nervous system, the hypothalamic hormones actually are produced by nerve cells (i.e., neurons). In addition, bereason signals from other neurons have the right to modulate the release of hypothalamic hormones, the hypothalamus serves as the significant connect in between the nervous and also endocrine devices. For example, the hypothalamus receives information from higher brain centers that respond to various environmental signals. Consequently, hypothalamic attribute is influenced by both the external and also interior atmospheres and also by hormone feedearlier. Stimuli from the external setting that instraight affect hypothalamic attribute encompass the light-dark cycle; temperature; signals from other members of the same species; and a large selection of visual, auditory, olmanufacturing facility, and sensory stimuli. The communication between various other brain areas and the hypothalamus, which conveys information about the inner atmosphere, involves electrochemical signal transmission with molecules dubbed neurotransmitters (e.g., aspartate, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate, norepinephrine, and serotonin). The complicated interplay of the actions of miscellaneous neurotransmitters regulates the production and also release of hormones from the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamic hormones are released into blood vessels that connect the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland (i.e., the hypothalamic-hypophyseal portal system). Due to the fact that they generally promote or inhilittle the release of hormones from the pituitary gland also, hypothalamic hormones are typically called releasing or inhibiting hormones. The major releasing and inhibiting hormones include the complying with (additionally see table, p. 156):

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which is component of the hormone system regulating carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism and sodium and water balance in the body

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which helps manage sexual and reproductive features, including pregnancy and lactation (i.e., milk production)

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which is component of the hormone device regulating the metabolic processes of all cells and also which contributes to the hormonal regulation of lactation

Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), which is an essential component of the device cultivating the organism’s growth

Somatostatin, which also affects bone and muscle expansion however has the oppowebsite result as that of GHRH

Dopamine, a substance that functions mostly as a neurotransmitter however also has actually some hormonal effects, such as repushing lactation until it is needed after childbirth.

The Pituitary and Its Major Hormones

The pituitary (additionally periodically dubbed the hypophysis) is a gland around the size of a little marble and also is situated in the brain directly below the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland also is composed of 2 parts: the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary.

The Anterior Pituitary

The anterior pituitary produces a number of necessary hormones that either stimulate targain glands (e.g., the adrenal glands, gonads, or thyroid gland) to produce tarobtain gland hormones or straight influence tarobtain organs. The pituitary hormones incorporate adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH); gonadotropins; thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), likewise dubbed thyrotropin; development hormone (GH); and also prolactin.

The initially three of those hormones—ACTH, gonadotropins, and TSH—act on other glands. Thus, ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to develop corticosteroid hormones—mainly cortisol—and also tiny amounts of female and also male sex hormones. The gonadotropins comprise two molecules, luteinizing hormone (LH) and also follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These 2 hormones control the manufacturing of female and male sex hormones in the ovaries and testes as well as the manufacturing of the germ cells—that is, the egg cells (i.e., ova) and also sperm cells (i.e., spermatozoa). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland also to create and release thyroid hormone. The staying two pituitary hormones, GH and also prolactin, directly influence their targain organs.

Growth Hormone

GH is the the majority of numerous of the pituitary hormones. As the name means, it plays a pivotal function in regulating the body’s growth and advance. For example, it stimulates the direct growth of the bones; promotes the growth of internal organs, fat (i.e., adipose) tproblem, connective tworry, endocrine glands, and also muscle; and also controls the advancement of the refertile organs. Accordingly, the GH levels in the blood are highest possible throughout early on childhood and puberty and decrease afterwards. Nonetheless, even fairly low GH levels still might be important later on in life, and also GH deficiency might add to some symptoms of aging.

In enhancement to its growth-promoting duty, GH affects carbohydrate, protein, and fat (i.e., lipid) metabolism. Thus, GH increases the levels of the sugar glucose in the blood by reducing glucose uptake by muscle cells and also adipose tproblem and by promoting glucose manufacturing (i.e., gluconeogenesis) from precursor molecules in the liver. (These actions are opposite to those of the hormone insulin, which is discussed in the area “The Pancreas and also Its Hormones,” p. 160.) GH additionally boosts the uptake of amino acids from the blood right into cells, as well as their incorporation into proteins, and stimulates the breakdvery own of lipids in adipose tworry.

To elicit these assorted impacts, GH modulates the activities of numerous taracquire organs, consisting of the liver, kidneys, bone, cartilage, skeletal muscle, and adipose cells. For some of these effects, GH acts directly on the targain cells. In other situations, but, GH acts indirectly by stimulating the manufacturing of a molecule called insulin-choose growth element 1 (IGF-1) in the liver and kidneys. The blood then transporting activities IGF-1 to the target organs, wbelow it binds to specific receptors on the cells. This interaction then may lead to the increased DNA manufacturing and also cell division that underlie the growth process.

Two hypothalamic hormones regulate GH release: (1) GHRH, which stimulates GH release, and also (2) somatostatin, which inhibits GH release. This regulatory mechanism additionally entails a short-loop feedearlier component, through which GH acts upon the hypothalamus to stimulate somatostatin release. In enhancement, GH release is enhanced by anxiety, such as low blood sugar levels (i.e., hypoglycemia) or severe exercise, and also by the oncollection of deep sleep.

Acute and also chronic alcohol consumption have actually been shown to reduce the levels of GH and IGF-1 in the blood. Both results have been observed in animals as well as in human beings. Acute alcohol management likewise reduces GH secretion in response to other stimuli that generally enhance the hormone’s release. Those deleterious impacts of alcohol may be particularly harmful to adolescents, that need GH for normal breakthrough and also puberty. (For even more information on alcohol’s impacts on puberty and development, see the post by Dees and also colleagues, pp. 165–169.)


With Each Other with other hormones, prolactin plays a main function in the breakthrough of the female breast and in the initiation and also maintenance of lactation after childbirth. Prolactin’s feature in guys, yet, is not well understood, although too much prolactin release deserve to result in diminished sex drive (i.e., libido) and also impotence. Several components manage prolactin release from the anterior pituitary. For instance, prolactin is released in enhancing quantities in response to the increase in estrogen levels in the blood that occurs in the time of pregnancy. In nursing women, prolactin is released in response to suckling by the infant. Several releasing and also inhibitory determinants from the hypothalamus also manage prolactin release. The the majority of important of those determinants is dopamine, which has actually an inhibitory impact.

Alcohol intake by nursing women can influence lactation both with its effects on the release of prolactin and also oxytocin (check out the complying with section) and also with its effects on the milk-creating (i.e., mammary) glands and also the composition of the milk. (For even more information on alcohol’s impacts on lactation, check out the post by Heil and Subramanian, pp. 178–184.)

The Posterior Pituitary

The posterior pituitary does not produce its very own hormones; rather, it stores two hormones—vasopressin and oxytocin—that are created by neurons in the hypothalamus. Both hormones collect at the ends of the neurons, which are located in the hypothalamus and also extfinish to the posterior pituitary.

Vasopressin, likewise referred to as arginine vasopressin (AVP), plays a crucial role in the body’s water and also electrolyte economic climate. Hence, AVP release promotes the reabsorption of water from the urine in the kidneys. Through this mechanism, the body reduces urine volume and conserves water. AVP release from the pituitary is regulated by the concentration of sodium in the blood and also by blood volume and also blood press. For instance, high blood push or enhanced blood volume results in the inhibition of AVP release. Consequently, even more water is released through the urine, and also both blood pressure and blood volume are reduced. Alcohol also has been shown to inhibit AVP release. Conversely, certain various other drugs (e.g., nicotine and morphine) rise AVP release, as execute significant pain, are afraid, nausea, and basic anesthesia, thereby resulting in reduced urine production and also water retention.

Oxytocin, the second hormone stored in the posterior pituitary, stimulates the contractions of the uterus throughout childbirth. In nursing women, the hormone activates milk ejection in response to suckling by the infant (i.e., the so-dubbed let-dvery own reflex).

The Adrenal Glands and Their Hormones

The adrenal glands are little structures located on optimal of the kidneys. Structurally, they consist of an external layer (i.e., the cortex) and also an inner layer (i.e., the medulla). The adrenal cortex produces plenty of hormones, mostly corticosteroids (i.e., glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids). The cortex is also the source of little quantities of sex hormones; those quantities, yet, are inconsiderable compared via the amounts normally developed by the ovaries and also testes. The adrenal medulla generates 2 substances—adrenaline and also noradrenaline—that are released as component of the fight-or-trip response to various anxiety components.

The primary glucocorticoid in people is cortisol (additionally referred to as hydro-cortisone), which helps regulate carbohydprice, protein, and lipid metabolism. For example, cortisol rises glucose levels in the blood by stimulating gluconeogenesis in the liver and also promotes the development of glycogen (i.e., a molecule that serves as the storage form of glucose) in the liver. Cortisol additionally reduces glucose uptake into muscle and also adipose tissue, thereby opposing the impacts of insulin. In addition, in assorted tconcerns, cortisol promotes protein and also lipid breakdown right into products (i.e., amino acids and also glycerol, respectively) that can be offered for gluconeogenesis.

In enhancement to those metabolic activities, cortisol shows up to protect the body versus the deleterious results of assorted stress factors, consisting of acute trauma, major surgical procedure, major infections, pain, blood loss, hypoglycemia, and emotional stress and anxiety. All of these tension components cause drastic increases in the cortisol levels in the blood. For world in whom cortisol levels cannot boost (e.g., because they had their adrenal glands removed), also mild stress and anxiety can be fatal. Finally, high doses of cortisol and various other corticosteroids deserve to be used medically to suppress tissue inflammation in response to injuries and also to minimize the immune response to international molecules.

The major mineralocorticoid in humans is aldosterone, which likewise helps manage the body’s water and also electrolyte balance. Its primary functions are to conserve sodium and to excrete potassium from the body. For example, aldosterone promotes the reabsorption of sodium in the kidney, thereby reducing water excretion and also increasing blood volume. Similarly, aldosterone decreases the proportion of sodium to potassium concentrations in sweat and saliva, thereby preventing sodium loss by means of those routes. The effect have the right to be extremely useful in hot climates, wbelow a lot sweating occurs.

In contrast to the glucocorticoids, pituitary, or hypothalamic, hormones carry out not regulate aldosterone release. Instead, it is controlled mainly by an additional hormone system, the reninangiotensin device, which likewise controls kidney function. In enhancement, the levels of sodium and also potassium in the blood affect aldosterone levels.

The Gonads and Their Hormones

The gonads (i.e., the ovaries and also testes) serve two significant functions. First, they produce the germ cells (i.e., ova in the ovaries and spermatozoa in the testes). Second, the gonads synthesize steroid sex hormones that are necessary for the advancement and function of both female and also male reproductive organs and also secondary sex characteristics (e.g., the adult distribution of body hair, such as facial hair in men) and also for pregnancy, childbirth, and also lactation. Three forms of sex hormones exist; each via different functions: (1) estrogens (e.g., estradiol), which exert feminizing effects; (2) progestogens (e.g., progesterone), which influence the uterus in preparation for and also during pregnancy; and (3) androgens (e.g., testosterone), which exert masculinizing effects. In addition to the reabundant attributes, sex hormones play countless vital duties throughout the body. For instance, they impact the metabolism of carbohydprices and also lipids, the cardiovascular mechanism, and bone growth and also development.


The significant estrogen is estradiol, which, in enhancement to tiny amounts of estrone and estriol, is produced mostly in the ovaries. Other manufacturing sites of estrogens include the corpus luteum,2 the placenta, and the adrenal glands. In men and also postmenopausal womales, most estrogens existing in the circulation are acquired from the convariation of testicular, adrenal, and ovarian androgens. The convariation occurs in peripheral tissues, mainly adipose tconcern and also skin.

The major function of estrogens is to coordinate the normal advance and functioning of the female genitalia and also breasts. During puberty, estrogens promote the expansion of the uterus, breasts, and vagina; identify the pattern of fat deposition and also distribution in the body that outcomes in the typical female shape; regulate the pubertal development spurt and also cessation of growth at adult height; and also regulate the development of secondary sex-related attributes. In adult woguys, the primary features of estrogens include regulating the menstrual cycle, contributing to the hormonal regulation of pregnancy and lactation, and maintaining female libiperform. (For even more information on the menstrual cycle and also alcohol’s results on it, view the article by Dees and colleagues, pp. 165–169. For more indevelopment on alcohol’s impacts on the emerging fetus, watch the write-up by Gabriel and colleagues, pp. 170–177.)

During menopausage, estrogen production in the ovaries ceases. The resulting reduction in estrogen levels leads to symptoms such as hot flashes, sweating, pounding of the heart (i.e., palpitations), enhanced irritcapacity, stress, depression, and also brittle bones (i.e., osteoporosis). The management of estrogens (i.e., hormone replacement therapy) can alleviate those symptoms and also alleviate the danger of osteoporosis and also coronary heart illness in postmenopausal women. At the exact same time, yet, hormone replacement treatment might increase the threat of specific forms of cancer (e.g., breastern cancer and also uterine cancer). Alcohol consumption has actually been presented to increase estrogen levels in the blood and urine, also in premenopausal women who drink two drinks or less per day (Reichguy et al. 1993) and in postmenopausal womales that drink much less than one drink per day (Gavaler and also Van Thiel 1992). These findings imply that modeprice alcohol usage might aid proccasion osteoporosis and also coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. Other studies, but, have detected no regular association in between alchol intake and increased estrogen levels (Dbody organ et al. 1994; Purohit 1998). (For even more information on the results of alcohol on postmenopausal womales, view the articles by Longnecker and Tseng, pp. 185–189, and Gavaler, pp. 220–227.)


The ovaries produce progestogens in the time of a specific phase of the menstrual cycle and in the placenta for many of pregnancy. Progestogens reason transforms in the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy and—together with estrogens—stimulate the advancement of the mammary glands in the breasts in preparation for lactation. The major progestogen is progesterone.


The primary androgenic steroid is testosterone, which is secreted primarily from the testes but likewise, in little quantities, from the adrenal glands (both in males and also women) and from the ovaries. Its major attribute is to stimulate the development and also growth of the male genital tract. In enhancement, testosterone has actually solid protein anabolic activities—that is, it promotes protein generation, which leads to raised muscle mass. The specific functions of testosterone differ in the time of different developpsychological stperiods, as follows:

In the fetus, testosterone mostly ensures the advancement of the inner and also exterior male genitalia

Throughout puberty, testosterone promotes the development of the male sex organs and is responsible for other male developmental characteristics, such as the pubertal development spurt and ultimate cessation of development at adult height; deepening of the voice; growth of facial, pubic, axillary, and also body hair; and also boost in muscularity and also strength

In the adult male, testosterone mainly serves to keep masculinity, libiperform, and sex-related potency and also regulate sperm production. Testosterone levels decrease slightly through age, although the drop is not as drastic as the reduction in estrogen levels in woguys in the time of menopause. (For information on alcohol’s results on male reproduction, see the short article by Emanuele and also Emanuele, pp.195–201.)

The Thyroid and also Its Hormones

The thyroid gland, which is composed of two lobes, is situated in front of the windpipe (i.e., trachea), just below the voice box (i.e., larynx). The gland also produces two structurally related hormones, thyroxine (T4) and also triiodothyronine (T3), that are iodinated derivatives of the amino acid tyrosine. Both hormones are collectively referred to as “thyroid hormone.” T4 constitutes around 90 percent of the hormone produced in the thyroid gland also. However, T3 is a much more active hormone, and also most of the T4 created by the thyroid is converted into T3 in the liver and also kidneys.

Thyroid hormone in basic serves to rise the metabolism of virtually all body tconcerns. For instance, thyroid hormone stimulates the production of specific proteins affiliated in heat generation in the body, a role that is essential for preserving body temperature in cold climates. Furthermore, thyroid hormone promotes a number of other metabolic processes entailing carbohydprices, proteins, and lipids that help geneprice the energy compelled for the body’s features. In addition to those metabolic results, thyroid hormone plays an essential role in the breakthrough of the main nervous system throughout late fetal and also early postnatal developpsychological stages. Additionally, thyroid hormone exerts an effect equivalent to that of GH on normal bone development and maturation. Finally, thyroid hormone is compelled for the normal breakthrough of teeth, skin, and also hair follicles as well as for the functioning of the nervous, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal devices.

In enhancement to thyroid hormone, particular cells (i.e., parafollicular C cells) in the thyroid gland also produce calcitonin, a hormone that helps preserve normal calcium levels in the blood. Specifically, calcitonin lowers calcium levels in the blood by reducing the release of calcium from the bones; inhibiting the constant erosion of bones (i.e., bone resorption), which additionally releases calcium; and inhibiting the reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys. Those results are oppowebsite to those of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is debated in the adhering to area.

The Parathyroid Glands and also Their Hormones

The parathyroid glands are 4 pea-sized bodies situated behind the thyroid gland also that produce PTH. This hormone rises calcium levels in the blood, helping to preserve bone quality and an enough supply of calcium, which is essential for many features throughout the body (e.g., muscle movement and also signal transmission within cells). Specifically, PTH causes reabsorption of calcium from and excretion of phosphate in the urine. PTH likewise promotes the release of stored calcium from the bones and bone resorption, both of which rise calcium levels in the blood. Finally, PTH stimulates the absorption of calcium from the food in the gastrointestinal tract. Consistent with PTH’s central role in calcium metabolism, the release of this hormone is not managed by pituitary hormones yet by the calcium levels in the blood. Hence, low calcium levels stimulate PTH release, whereas high calcium levels suppush it.

Many type of of the attributes of PTH need or are helped with by a substance dubbed 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, a derivative of vitamin D. In enhancement, numerous other hormones are involved in regulating the body’s calcium levels and also bone metabolism, including estrogens, glucocorticoids, and expansion hormone. (For more information on the hormonal manage of bone and also calcium metabolism and on alcohol’s effects on those systems, watch the post by Sampchild, pp. 190–194.)

The Pancreas and also Its Hormones

The pancreas is located in the abdomen, behind the stomach, and serves two distinctly various attributes. First, it acts as an exocrine organ, because the majority of pancreatic cells produce assorted digestive enzymes that are secreted right into the gut and also which are crucial for the efficient digestion of food. 2nd, the pancreas serves as an endocrine body organ, because particular cell clusters (i.e., the Isallows of Langerhans) develop 2 hormones—insulin and glucagon—that are released right into the blood and play pivotal roles in blood glucose regulation.


Insulin is produced in the beta cells of the Isallows of Langerhans. Its main objective is to reduced blood glucose levels; in fact, insulin is the only blood sugar-lowering hormone in the body. To this end, insulin promotes the formation of storage forms of power (e.g., glycogen, proteins, and lipids) and also suppresses the breakdvery own of those stored nutrients. Accordingly, the target organs of insulin are generally those that are specialized for power storage, such as the liver, muscles, and also adipose tproblem. Specifically, insulin has actually the following metabolic effects:

Promotes glucose uptake right into cells and also its convariation into glycogen, stimulates the breakdvery own of glucose, and inhibits gluconeogenesis

Stimulates the carry of amino acids into cells and protein synthesis in muscle cells, thereby lowering the levels of amino acids obtainable for gluconeogenesis in the liver

Increases fat synthesis in the liver and also adipose tissue, thereby lowering the levels of glycerol, which likewise can serve as a beginning product for gluconeogenesis.

The release of insulin is managed by miscellaneous factors, consisting of blood glucose levels; various other islet hormones (e.g., glucagon); and, indirectly, various other hormones that alter blood glucose levels (e.g., GH, glucocorticoids, and thyroid hormone).


The second blood-sugar–regulating pancreatic hormone is glucagon, which is produced in the alpha cells of the Isallows of Langerhans. Glucagon rises blood glucose levels; accordingly, its primary actions mainly are opposite to those of insulin. For instance, glucagon rises glycogen breakdvery own and gluconeogenesis in the liver as well as the breakdvery own of lipids and also proteins. The release of glucagon is regulated by many kind of of the same components as is insulin’s release, however occasionally with the opposite result. Hence, an increase in blood glucose levels stimulates insulin release but inhibits glucagon release.

A carefully tuned balance between the tasks of insulin and glucagon is crucial for maintaining blood sugar levels. Accordingly, disturbances of that balance, such as an insulin deficiency or an inability of the body to respond adequately to insulin, bring about serious disorders, such as diabetes mellitus. (For even more information on diabetes and on alcohol’s results on insulin, glucagon, and the management of diabetes, view the article by Emanuele and colleagues, pp. 211–219.)

Hormone Systems

As this article has actually suggested in describing the various endocrine glands and also their hormones, some hormones are managed directly by the metabolic pathmethods that they influence. For instance, blood sugar levels straight regulate insulin and glucagon release by the pancreas, and calcium levels in the blood control PTH release. Conversely, many type of hormones developed by targain glands are regulated by pituitary hormones, which subsequently are regulated by hypothalamic hormones. Instances of such regulatory hormonal cascades encompass the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroidal (HPT) axis, which are defined briefly in the adhering to sections (check out figure 3, p.162).

Schematic representation of the HPA, HPG, and HPT axes. For each device, the hypothalamus secretes releasing hormones (i.e., CRH, GnRH, and TRH) that act on the pituitary gland. In response to those stimuli, the pituitary gland also releases ACTH, gonadotropins (i.e., LH and FSH), or TSH. ACTH activates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which induces metabolic results. Cortisol likewise acts back on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland also by negative feedearlier. LH and also FSH in women stimulate the ovaries to develop estrogens and also progesterone. Depfinishing on the phase of the menstrual cycle, those hormones act ago on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in either a stimulatory or inhibitory manner. In males, LH stimulates the testes to release testosterone, which feeds back on the hypothalamus and pituitary. Finally, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland also to develop the thyroid hormones T3 and also T4, both of which rise cell metabolism and feed back on the hypothalamus and pituitary.

NOTE: = stimulates; = inhibits; ACTH = adrenocorticotropic hormone; CRH = corticotropin-releasing hormone; FSH = follicle-stimulating hormone; GnRH = gonadotropin-releasing hormone; HPA = hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal; HPG = hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal; HPT = hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid; LH = luteinizing hormone; T3 = triiodothyronine; T4 = thyroxine; TRH = thyrotropin-releasing hormone; TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.

The HPA Axis

Activation of the HPA axis, which regulates assorted metabolic attributes, is initiated with the release of CRH from the hypothalamus. This release occurs in response to miscellaneous stimuli, consisting of nearly any kind of form of physical or psychological stress; during the normal sleep-wake cycle; and in response to certain neurotransmitters. CRH then stimulates the anterior pituitary to produce ACTH. (In addition to CRH, AVP from the hypothalamus additionally have the right to stimulate ACTH release). ACTH, consequently, activates adrenal hormone manufacturing, generally of cortisol, which mediates the particular physiological results of this hormone mechanism.

The activity of the HPA axis is regulated by negative feedearlier mechanisms. Hence, boosted cortisol levels repress CRH release by the hypothalamus and also ACTH release by the pituitary. In addition, ACTH can straight inhilittle bit hypothalamic CRH release.

Any disturbances in the HPA axis can bring about significant clinical aftermath. For example, insufficient hormone manufacturing by the adrenal cortex causes Addison’s illness, which is identified by muscle weakness, dehydration, loss of appetite (i.e., anorexia), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, exhaustion, and malaise. Patients with this disease exhibit low levels of plasma cortisol yet high levels of ACTH. The rise in ACTH levels represents a vain attempt by the pituitary to stimulate hormone manufacturing in the unresponsive adrenal cortex.

Equally deleterious is the excessive glucocorticoid production that results from excess ACTH release (i.e., Cushing’s syndrome). Those patients experience symptoms such as muscle weakness and also wasting, ago pain from osteoporosis, a propensity to bruise easily, redistribution of body fat (i.e., a rounded “moon” confront, influential abdomen, and thin legs), and assorted psychological disturbances. Since of the negative feedearlier mechanism of the HPA axis, the patient’s cortisol levels are high and also the ACTH levels are low.

Both acute and chronic alcohol consumption have actually been shown to activate the HPA axis, and also some drinkers build a so-referred to as pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome that disappears with abstinence (Veldmale and Meinders 1996; Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). (For even more indevelopment on alcohol’s result on the HPA axis and also its relation to alcohol craving, watch the write-up by Gianoulakis, pp. 202–210.)

The HPG Axis

In both guys and also womales, the HPG axis is the hormone mechanism that controls the release of sex hormones. In both genders, the system is caused by GnRH, which is released consistently in short bursts from the hypothalamus. GnRH then stimulates the release of FSH and also LH from the anterior pituitary.

In guys, LH stimulates certain cells in the testes (i.e., Leydig cells) to release testosterone. FSH and also testosterone are crucial regulators of another collection of testicular cells (i.e., Sertoli cells), which assistance and nourish the sperm cells throughout their maturation. The HPG axis in males is regulated with a selection of determinants. For instance, testosterone is part of an unfavorable feedback mechanism that inhibits GnRH release by the hypothalamus and LH release by the pituitary. In enhancement, the Sertoli cells secrete a substance dubbed inhibin, which avoids FSH release from the pituitary. Finally, the Leydig cells and also, to a lesser degree, the Sertoli cells develop a substance called activin, which stimulates FSH secretion and also therefore has actually the oppowebsite effects of inhibin.

In womales, during the menstrual cycle, LH and FSH stimulate the ovarian follicle that contains the maturing egg to develop estradiol. After ovulation has actually developed, LH additionally promotes production of progesterone and also estradiol by the corpus luteum. Both hormones participate in a negative feedback mechanism with the majority of of the menstrual cycle, suppressing GnRH release from the hypothalamus and also LH release from the pituitary. Shortly prior to ovulation, yet, a positive feedago mechanism is activated by which estradiol actually boosts LH release from the pituitary. The resulting surge in LH levels ultimately leads to ovulation, the development of the corpus luteum, and progesterone release. Progesterone exerts a negative feedago on LH and FSH release, resulting in LH levels to decrease again. In addition to those mechanisms, FSH release from the pituitary is regulated by inhibin, a substance produced by specific cells in the ovarian follicle.

Both acute and also chronic alcohol usage can interfere via the normal functioning of the HPG axis, causing lessened fertility or also infertility in both men and also woguys and in menstrual disturbances in womales. (For more indevelopment on alcohol’s impacts on the HPG axis in women and males, check out the write-ups by Dees and colleagues, pp. 165–169, and by Emanuele and also Emanuele, pp. 195–201.)

The HPT Axis

The hormones that consist of the HPT axis control the metabolic processes of all cells in the body and also are therefore vital for the organism to function usually. The secretion of TRH from the hypothalamus activates the HPT axis. After getting to the pituitary, TRH stimulates the release of TSH, which subsequently promotes the manufacturing and release of T4 and T3 by the thyroid gland. Negative feed-earlier impacts of T4 and T3 on both the hypothalamus and the pituitary manage the HPT mechanism. (For a review of alcohol’s impacts on the HPT axis, watch sidebar, p. 163.)

One of the important hormonal devices regulating normal body functioning is the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, which controls the metabolism of all cells. Just like other hormone units, alcohol usage under certain conditions can modify the release of hormones connected in this axis. In healthy and balanced nonalcoholics, alcohol usage does not appear to induce any kind of considerable alters in the HPT axis (Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). Conversely, some results of alcohol on the HPT axis have been oboffered in alcoholics. The effects differ relying on the drinking condition of the alcoholics stupassed away. In alcoholics undergoing withdrawal, baseline levels of thyroid hormone (i.e., T3 and also T4) in the blood differ only minimally from those in nonalcoholics. The ability of hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) to activate the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary, but, is impaired in these alcoholics (Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). This “blunting” result may result from alcohol’s influence on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine produced in the hypothalamus acts not just as a neurotransmitter however likewise as a hormone in that it inhibits the release of both TSH and also prolactin from the pituitary. Alcohol has actually been displayed to increase dopaminergic activity and thereby may suppush the TSH response to TRH. This hypothesis is supported by the reality that prolactin release in response to TRH also is blunted in alcoholics undergoing withdrawal.

Alcohol’s results on the HPT axis are even more facility in abstinent alcoholics (Garbutt et al. 1995). In those world, the baseline levels of T3 and occasionally T4 are reduced than in nonalcoholics. It is unclear, but, if this change represents a straight result of long-term alcohol consumption or results from co-developing alcohol-connected illnesses, bereason thyroid hormone levels are often diminished in patients with acute or chronic non-thyroid–associated illnesses, such as sepsis, burns, or major trauma. In addition to the reduced thyroid hormone levels, however, the TSH response to TRH remains blunted in abstinent alcoholics, whereas the prolactin response to TRH has went back to normal levels. This observation suggests that a factor other than dopamine most likely contributes to this result, although the specific mechanisms are unknown.

Finally, some intriguing findings have said that abnormal responses of the HPT axis may reexisting a marker for a person’s vulnercapability to alcoholism. Hence, some civilization that are at high risk for emerging alcoholism, such as nonalcoholic sons of alcoholic fathers, tend to exhilittle bit a blunted TSH response to TRH (Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). These monitorings still need further investigation, however, for researchers to totally understand also their definition.

—Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel and also Andrzej Bartke


The neuroendocrine mechanism is a very complicated and tightly managed netjob-related of hormones released by endocrine glands throughout the body. The levels of some of the hormones are regulated in a reasonably straightforward manner by the finish assets that they influence. Hence, blood sugar levels primarily regulate insulin and also glucagon release by the pancreas. Other hormones (e.g., those of the HPA, HPG, and also HPT axes) are components of hormone cascades whose activities are controlled with sophisticated feedearlier mechanisms. In addition, countless instraight interactions exist in between the assorted hormone systems governing body functioning. For instance, hormones such as GH and also thyroid hormone, through their results on cellular metabolism, might modify blood sugar levels and, accordingly, insulin release. Similarly, alcohol’s effects on one hormone device may have instraight aftermath for various other devices, thereby contributing to alcohol’s impacts on the functioning of virtually every body organ in the body. It is necessary to store this interconnectedness of neuroendocrine systems in mind when analyzing alcohol’s influence on assorted hormones, which are defined in the staying posts in this issue.

1Conversely, exocrine glands (e.g., sweat glands and also salivary glands) release their secretions to the external of the body (e.g., sweat) or into a hollow space that is open up to the external (e.g., saliva released right into the mouth).

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2The corpus luteum is a group of cells acquired from the follicle that releases the ovum in the time of a details menstrual cycle.