Function of the endocrine system

Functions of the Endocrine System

The biological role of the endocrine system is closely linked to that of the nervous system; the two together coordinate the functions of the other (in some cases widely separated) organs and organ systems. The distinguishing feature of the endocrine system is that its influence is exerted by way of a number of substances, the hormones. Chemically, the hormones are a nonuniform group; the range of compounds represented includes steroids, amino-acid derivatives, peptides and proteins. Their common characteristic is that they are produced in special organs, the endocrine glands (glands without secretory ducts) or in circumscribed groups of cells — for example, the islet cells of the pancreas, Leydig’s interstitial cells in the testes, and cell groups in the duodenal mucosa (secretin) and the hypothalamus (ADH, oxytocin, etc.) — and are transported in the blood to more or less distant organs. They have specific actions on these target organs, actions that as a rule cannot be produced by any other substance. The word “specific” also indicates that the action of each hormone is exerted only on its particular functional systems or organs, the “effector organs.” A further characteristic is that the endocrine glands and cell groups are occupied exclusively with the formation and secretion of their hormones.


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