Structure and Function: Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland controls the activities of many other endocrine glands and hormone-producing cells around the body. The pituitary gland has two parts, the anterior and posterior lobes, which are under the control of a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus secretes releasing hormones that pass through the circulation to the pituitary’s anterior lobe, where they trigger the production of hormones that control other glands. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus secrete two hormones that pass down nerve fibres to be stored in the posterior lobe until they are needed.

Structure of the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland has an anterior lobe and a posterior lobe. It is linked to the hypothalamus, which lies directly above it, by a short stalk that contains nerve fibres and a specialized network of blood vessels known as a portal system.

Pituitary hormones

Almost all of the pituitary hormones are secreted by the anterior (front) lobe of the pituitary gland, but two hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin, are produced in the posterior (rear) lobe. Pituitary gland hormones either act on other glands, stimulating them to produce hormones, or act directly on tissues and organs.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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