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Biology LibreTexts

37.4: Regulation of Hormone Production

Skills to Develop

  • Explain how hormone production is regulated
  • Discuss the different stimuli that control hormone levels in the body

Hormone production and release are primarily controlled by negative feedback. In negative feedback systems, a stimulus elicits the release of a substance; once the substance reaches a certain level, it sends a signal that stops further release of the substance. In this way, the concentration of hormones in blood is maintained within a narrow range. For example, the anterior pituitary signals the thyroid to release thyroid hormones. Increasing levels of these hormones in the blood then give feedback to the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary to inhibit further signaling to the thyroid gland, as illustrated in Figure 37.4.1. There are three mechanisms by which endocrine glands are stimulated to synthesize and release hormones: humoral stimuli, hormonal stimuli, and neural stimuli.

Art Connection

Figure 37.4.1: The anterior pituitary stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Increasing levels of these hormones in the blood results in feedback to the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary to inhibit further signaling to the thyroid gland. (credit: modification of work by Mikael Häggström)

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive. Which of the conditions are the following two patients most likely to have?

Patient A has symptoms including weight gain, cold sensitivity, low heart rate and fatigue.

Patient B has symptoms including weight loss, profuse sweating, increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping.

Humoral Stimuli

The term “humoral” is derived from the term “humor,” which refers to bodily fluids such as blood. A humoral stimulus refers to the control of hormone release in response to changes in extracellular fluids such as blood or the ion concentration in the blood. For example, a rise in blood glucose levels triggers the pancreatic release of insulin. Insulin causes blood glucose levels to drop, which signals the pancreas to stop producing insulin in a negative feedback loop.

Hormonal Stimuli

Hormonal stimuli refers to the release of a hormone in response to another hormone. A number of endocrine glands release hormones when stimulated by hormones released by other endocrine glands. For example, the hypothalamus produces hormones that stimulate the anterior portion of the pituitary gland. The anterior pituitary in turn releases hormones that regulate hormone production by other endocrine glands. The anterior pituitary releases the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which then stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the hormones T3 and T4. As blood concentrations of T3 and T4 rise, they inhibit both the pituitary and the hypothalamus in a negative feedback loop.

Neural Stimuli

In some cases, the nervous system directly stimulates endocrine glands to release hormones, which is referred to as neural stimuli. Recall that in a short-term stress response, the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine are important for providing the bursts of energy required for the body to respond. Here, neuronal signaling from the sympathetic nervous system directly stimulates the adrenal medulla to release the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine in response to stress.

Summary

Hormone levels are primarily controlled through negative feedback, in which rising levels of a hormone inhibit its further release. The three mechanisms of hormonal release are humoral stimuli, hormonal stimuli, and neural stimuli. Humoral stimuli refers to the control of hormonal release in response to changes in extracellular fluid levels or ion levels. Hormonal stimuli refers to the release of hormones in response to hormones released by other endocrine glands. Neural stimuli refers to the release of hormones in response to neural stimulation.

Art Connections

[link] Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive. Which of the conditions are the following two patients most likely to have?

Patient A has symptoms including weight gain, cold sensitivity, low heart rate and fatigue.

Patient B has symptoms including weight loss, profuse sweating, increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping.

[link] Patient A has symptoms associated with decreased metabolism, and may be suffering from hypothyroidism. Patient B has symptoms associated with increased metabolism, and may be suffering from hyperthyroidism.

Review Questions

A rise in blood glucose levels triggers release of insulin from the pancreas. This mechanism of hormone production is stimulated by:

  1. humoral stimuli
  2. hormonal stimuli
  3. neural stimuli
  4. negative stimuli

A

Which mechanism of hormonal stimulation would be affected if signaling and hormone release from the hypothalamus was blocked?

  1. humoral and hormonal stimuli
  2. hormonal and neural stimuli
  3. neural and humoral stimuli
  4. hormonal and negative stimuli

B

Free Response

How is hormone production and release primarily controlled?

Hormone production and release are primarily controlled by negative feedback. In negative feedback systems, a stimulus causes the release of a substance whose effects then inhibit further release. In this way, the concentration of hormones in blood is maintained within a narrow range. For example, the anterior pituitary signals the thyroid to release thyroid hormones. Increasing levels of these hormones in the blood then feed back to the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary to inhibit further signaling to the thyroid gland.

Compare and contrast hormonal and humoral stimuli.

The term humoral is derived from the term humor, which refers to bodily fluids such as blood. Humoral stimuli refer to the control of hormone release in response to changes in extracellular fluids such as blood or the ion concentration in the blood. For example, a rise in blood glucose levels triggers the pancreatic release of insulin. Insulin causes blood glucose levels to drop, which signals the pancreas to stop producing insulin in a negative feedback loop.

Hormonal stimuli refer to the release of a hormone in response to another hormone. A number of endocrine glands release hormones when stimulated by hormones released by other endocrine organs. For example, the hypothalamus produces hormones that stimulate the anterior pituitary. The anterior pituitary in turn releases hormones that regulate hormone production by other endocrine glands. For example, the anterior pituitary releases thyroid-stimulating hormone, which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the hormones T3 and T4. As blood concentrations of T3 and T4 rise they inhibit both the pituitary and the hypothalamus in a negative feedback loop.

Glossary

hormonal stimuli
release of a hormone in response to another hormone
humoral stimuli
control of hormone release in response to changes in extracellular fluids such as blood or the ion concentration in the blood
neural stimuli
stimulation of endocrine glands by the nervous system

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