The endocrine system is an integrated system of small organs that involve the release of extracellular signaling molecules known as hormones. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating metabolism, growth and development and puberty, tissue function, and plays a part also in mood.
The field of medicine that deals with disorders of endocrine glands is endocrinology, a branch of the wider field of internal medicine.
The Endocrine system is an information signal system much like the nervous system. However, the nervous system uses nerves to conduct information, whereas the endocrine system mainly uses blood vessels as information channels. Glands located in many regions of the body release into the bloodstream specific chemical messengers called hormones. Hormones regulate the many and varied functions of an organism, e.g., mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sending messages and acting on them.
Types of signaling
The typical mode of cell signaling in the endocrine system is endocrine signaling. However, there are also other modes, i.e., paracrine, autocrine, and neuroendocrine signaling . Purely neurocrine signaling between neurons, on the other hand, belongs completely to the nervous system.
Typical endocrine glands are the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. Features of endocrine glands are, in general, their ductless nature, their vascularity, and usually the presence of intracellular vacuoles or granules storing their hormones. In contrast exocrine glands such as salivary glands, sweat glands, and glands within the gastrointestinal tract tend to be much less vascular and have ducts or a hollow lumen.
Main article: Autocrine signalling
Other signaling can target the same cell.
Main article: Paracrine signalling
Paracrine signaling is where the target cell is nearby.
Main article: Juxtacrine signalling
Juxtacrine signals are transmitted along cell membranes via protein or lipid components integral to the membrane and are capable of affecting either the emitting cell or cells immediately adjacent.
Endocrinopathies are classified as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary endocrine disease inhibits the action of downstream glands. Tertiary endocrine disease is associated with dysfunction of the hypothalamus and its releasing hormones.
Cancer can occur in endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, and hormones have been implicated in signalling distant tissues to proliferate, for example the Estrogen receptor has been shown to be involved in certain breast cancers. Endocrine, Paracrine, and autocrine signalling have all been implicated in proliferation, one of the required steps of oncogenesis.
Table of endocrine glands and secreted hormones
This is a table of the glands of the endocrine system, and their secreted hormones
^ Pentikäinen V, Erkkilä K, Suomalainen L, Parvinen M, Dunkel L. Estradiol Acts as a Germ Cell Survival Factor in the Human Testis in vitro.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2006;85:2057-67 PMID 10843196