Hormones are chemicals released by cells that affect cells in other areas of the body. Only a small amount of a hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. hormones are chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. All multicellular organisms produce hormones; plant hormones are also called phytohormones. Hormones in animals are often transported in the blood. Cells respond to a hormone when they express a specific receptor for that hormone. The hormone binds to the receptor protein, resulting in the activation of a signal transduction mechanism that ultimately leads to cell type-specific responses.
Hormones carry messages from glands to cells to maintain chemical levels in the bloodstream that achieve homeostasis. "Hormone" comes from a word that means, "to spur on." This reflects how the presence of hormones acts as a catalyst for other chemical changes at the cellular level necessary for growth, development, and energy.
- Growth and development
- Metabolism - how your body gets energy
from the foods you eat
- Sexual function
The Endocrine System
Endocrine Glands - As members of the endocrine system, glands manufacture hormones. Hormones circulate freely in the bloodstream, waiting to be recognized by a target cell, their intended destination. The target cell has a receptor that can only be activated by a specific type of hormone. Once activated, the cell knows to start a certain function within its walls. Genes might get activated, or energy production resumed. As special categories, autocrine hormones act on the cells of the secreting gland, while paracrine hormones act on nearby, but unrelated, cells.
Steroids & Peptides - There are two types of hormones known as steroids and peptides. In general, steroids are sex hormones related to sexual maturation and fertility. Steroids are made from cholesterol either by the placenta when we're in the womb, or by our adrenal gland or gonads (testes or ovaries) after birth. Cortisol, an example of a steroid hormone, breaks down damaged tissue so it can be replaced. Steroids determine physical development from puberty on to old age, as well as fertility cycles. If we are not synthesizing the correct steroidal hormones, we can sometimes supplement them pharmaceutically as with estrogen and progesterone.
Peptides regulate other functions such as sleep and sugar concentration. They are made from long strings of amino acids, so sometimes they are referred to as "protein" hormones. Growth hormone, for example, helps us burn fat and build up muscles. Another peptide hormone, insulin, starts the process to convert sugar into cellular energy.
Hormones so perfectly and efficiently manage homeostasis due to negative feedback cycles. Our goal is to keep the concentration of a certain chemical, such as testosterone, at a constant level for a certain period of time, the way that a thermostat works. Using negative feedback, a change in conditions causes a response that returns the conditions to their original state. When a room's temperature drops, the thermostat responds by turning the heat on. The room returns to the ideal temperature, and the heater turns off, keeping the conditions relatively constant.
Endocrine hormone molecules are secreted (released) directly into the bloodstream, while exocrine hormones (or ectohormones) are secreted directly into a duct, and from the duct they either flow into the bloodstream or they flow from cell to cell by diffusion in a process known as paracrine signalling. Hormones work as your body's chemical messengers. They travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes, including:
It is the Endocrine glands, which are special groups of cells, that produce hormones. The major endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas. In addition, men produce hormones in their testes and women produce them in their ovaries.
Hormones are powerful. It takes only a tiny amount to cause big changes in cells or even your whole body. That is why too much or too little of a certain hormone can be serious. Laboratory tests can measure the hormone levels in your blood, urine or saliva. Your health care provider may perform these tests if you have symptoms of a hormone disorder. Home pregnancy tests are similar - they test for pregnancy hormones in your urine.
Hormonal regulation of some physiological activities involves a hierarchy of cell types acting on each other either to stimulate or to modulate the release and action of a particular hormone. The secretion of hormones from successive levels of endocrine cells is stimulated by chemical signals originating from cells higher up the hierarchical system. The master coordinator of hormonal activity in mammals is the hypothalamus, which acts on input that it receives from the central nervous system.
Other hormone secretion occurs in response to local conditions, such as the rate of secretion of parathyroid hormone by the parathyroid cells in response to fluctuations of ionized calcium levels in extracellular fluid.
Hormonal signalling across this hierarchy involves the following:
- Biosynthesis of a particular hormone in a particular tissue
- Storage and secretion of the hormone
- Transport of the hormone to the target cell(s)
- Recognition of the hormone by an associated cell membrane or intracellular receptor protein.
- Relay and amplification of the received hormonal signal via a signal transduction process: This then leads to a cellular response. The reaction of the target cells may then be recognized by the original hormone-producing cells, leading to a down-regulation in hormone production. This is an example of a homeostatic negative feedback loop.
- Degradation of the hormone.
As can be inferred from the hierarchical diagram, hormone biosynthetic cells are typically of a specialized cell type, residing within a particular endocrine gland (e.g., the thyroid gland, the ovaries, or the testes). Hormones may exit their cell of origin via exocytosis or another means of membrane transport. However, the hierarchical model is an oversimplification of the hormonal signaling process. Cellular recipients of a particular hormonal signal may be one of several cell types that reside within a number of different tissues, as is the case for insulin, which triggers a diverse range of systemic physiological effects. Different tissue types may also respond differently to the same hormonal signal. Because of this, hormonal signaling is elaborate and hard to dissect.