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hormone, secretory substance carried from one gland or organ of the body via the bloodstream to more or less specific tissues, where it exerts some influence upon the metabolism of the target tissue. Normally, various hormones are produced and secreted by the endocrine glands (see endocrine system), including the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, ovaries, testes, pancreatic islets, certain portions of the gastrointestinal tract, and the placenta, among the mammalian species. As lack of any one of them may cause serious disorders, many hormones are now produced synthetically and used in treatment where a deficiency exists. The hormones of the anterior pituitary include thyrotropin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, the gonadotropic hormones, and growth hormone; the posterior pituitary secretes antidiuretic hormone, prolactin, and oxytocin. The thyroids secrete thyroxine and calcitonin, and the parathyroids secrete parathyroid hormone. The adrenal medulla secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine while the cortex of the same gland releases aldosterone, corticosterone, cortisol, and cortisone. The ovaries primarily secrete estrogen and progesterone and the testes testosterone. The adrenal cortex, ovaries, and testes in fact produce at least small amounts of all of the steroid hormones. The islets of Langerhans in the pancreas secrete insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin. The kidneys also produce erythropoietin, which produces erythrocytes (red blood cells). The passage of chyme (see digestive system) from the stomach to the duodenum causes the latter to release secretin, which stimulates the flow of pancreatic juice. The duodenum can also be stimulated by the presence of fats in the chyme to secrete cholecystokinin, a hormone that stimulates the gall bladder to contract and release bile. There is evidence that the upper intestine secretes pancreatozymin, which enhances the amount of digestive enzymes in the pancreatic juice. In addition, the pyloric region of the stomach secretes gastrin, a hormone that increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid into the stomach. The placenta has been shown to secrete progesterone and chorionic gonadotropin. There is evidence that it even contains a substance similar to growth hormone. Insects have a unique hormonal system that includes ecdysone, a steroid that influences molting and metamorphosis, and juvenile hormone, needed for early development. Plants, too, have a hormonal system, which includes the auxins, the gibberellins, the cytokinins, and substances associated with the formation of flowers, tubers, bulbs, and buds. Ethylene is said to function as a hormone in plants, acting to hasten the ripening of fruits.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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