The pituitary gland is pea-sized structure located at the base of the brain. In humans, it consists of two lobes:
The anterior lobe contains several types of secretory cells, most of which are specialized to secrete only one of the anterior lobe hormones. All of them secrete their hormone in response to hormones reaching them from the hypothalamus of the brain.
- the Anterior Lobe and
- the Posterior Lobe
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
TSH (also known as thyrotropin) is a glycoprotein consisting of:
The secretion of TSH is
As its name suggests, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete its hormones
- a beta chain of 112 amino acids and
- an alpha chain of 89 amino acids. The alpha chain is identical to that found in two other pituitary hormones, FSH and LH. Thus it is its beta chain that gives TSH its unique properties.
It does this by binding to transmembrane protein receptors on the surface of the cells of the thyroid.
- thyroxine (T4)
- triiodothyronine ( T3)
Some people develop antibodies against their own TSH receptors. When these bind the receptors, they "fool" the cell into making more T3 and T4 causing hyperthyroidism. The condition is called thyrotoxicosis or Graves disease.
A deficiency of TSH causes hypothyroidism: inadequate levels of T4 and T3.
Recombinant human TSH has recently become available to treat patients with TSH deficiency.
Some people inherit mutant TSH receptors. This, too, results in hypothyroidism.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
FSH is a heterodimer of
Synthesis and release of FSH is triggered by the arrival from the hypothalamus of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
The effect of FSH depends on one's sex
In sexually-mature females, FSH (assisted by LH) acts on the follicle to stimulate it to release estrogens.
In sexually-mature males, FSH acts on spermatogonia stimulating (with the aid of testosterone) the production of sperm.
LH is synthesized within the same pituitary cells as FSH and under the same stimulus (GnRH).
It is a heterodimeric glycoprotein consisting of
- the same alpha chain found in TSH (and LH)
- a beta chain of 115 amino acids, which gives it its unique properties.
The effects of LH also depend on sex.
In sexually-mature females, LH
- the same 89-amino acid alpha subunit found in FSH and TSH
- a beta chain of 115 amino acids that is responsible for its properties.
LH acts on the interstitial cells of the testes stimulating them to synthesize and secrete the male sex hormone, testosterone.
- stimulates the follicle to secrete estrogen in the first half of the menstrual cycle
- a surge of LH triggers the completion of meiosis I of the egg and its release (ovulation) in the middle of the cycle
- stimulates the now-empty follicle to develop into the corpus luteum,which secretes progesterone during the latter half of the menstrual cycle.
LH in males is also known as interstitial cell stimulating hormone (ICSH).
Prolactin is a protein of 198 amino acids. During pregnancy it helps in the preparation of the breasts for future milk production.
After birth, prolactin promotes the synthesis of milk.
Prolactin secretion is
Growth Hormone (GH)
Human growth hormone (also called somatotropin) is a protein of 191 amino acids.
The GH-secreting cells are stimulated to synthesize and release GH by the intermittent arrival of growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) from the hypothalamus.
GH promotes body growth by:
- binding to receptors on the surface of liver cells
- this stimulates them to release insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1; also known as somatomedin)
- IGF-1 acts directly on the ends of the long bones promoting their growth
GH from domestic mammals like cows and pigs does not work in humans. So for many years, the only source of GH for therapy was that extracted from the glands of human cadavers. But this supply was shut off when several patients died from a rare neurological disease attributed to contaminated glands.
Now, thanks to recombinant DNA technology, recombinant human GH is available. While a great benefit to patients suffering form GH deficiency, there has also been pressure to use it to stimulate growth in youngsters who have no deficiency but whose parents want them to grow up tall.
- In childhood,
- hyposecretion of GH produces the stunted growth of a dwarf
- hypersecretion leads to gigantism
- In adults, a hypersecretion of GH leads to acromegaly.
ACTH - the adrenocorticotropic hormone
ACTH is a peptide of 39 amino acids.
ACTH acts on the cells of the adrenal cortex, stimulating them to produce
- glucocorticoids, like cortisol
- mineralocorticoids, like aldosterone
- androgens (male sex hormones, like testosterone
- in the fetus, ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to synthesize a precursor of estrogen called dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) which helps prepare the mother for giving birth.
Production of ACTH depends on the intermittent arrival of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus.
Hypersecretion of ACTH is a frequent cause of Cushing's disease.
The posterior lobe of the pituitary releases two hormones, both synthesized in the hypothalamus, into the circulation.
Oxytocin is often given to prospective mothers to hasten birth.
5 November 2000