Endocrine - Other Tissues

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Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT)

This current page recognises that there are a growing number of other tissues that have been shown to have a range of associated endocrine functions.

Endocrine Links: Introduction | BGD Lecture | Science Lecture | Lecture Movie | pineal | hypothalamus‎ | pituitary | thyroid | parathyroid | thymus | pancreas | adrenal | endocrine gonad‎ | endocrine placenta | other tissues | Stage 22 | endocrine abnormalities | Hormones | Category:Endocrine
Historic Embryology - Endocrine  
1903 Islets of Langerhans | 1903 Pig Adrenal | 1904 interstitial Cells | 1908 Pancreas Different Species | 1908 Pituitary | 1908 Pituitary histology | 1911 Rathke's pouch | 1912 Suprarenal Bodies | 1914 Suprarenal Organs | 1915 Pharynx | 1916 Thyroid | 1918 Rabbit Hypophysis | 1920 Adrenal | 1935 Mammalian Hypophysis | 1926 Human Hypophysis | 1927 Adrenal | 1927 Hypophyseal fossa | 1930 Adrenal | 1932 Pineal Gland and Cysts | 1935 Hypophysis | 1935 Pineal | 1937 Pineal | 1935 Parathyroid | 1940 Adrenal | 1941 Thyroid | 1950 Thyroid Parathyroid Thymus | 1957 Adrenal

Some Recent Findings

  • Review - An updated view of leptin on implantation and pregnancy[1] "The hormone leptin, which is thought to be primarily produced by adipose tissue, is a polypeptide that was initially characterized by its ability to regulate food intake and energy metabolism. Leptin appears to signal the status of body energy stores to the brain, resulting in the regulation of food intake and whole-body energy expenditure. Subsequently, it was recognized as a cytokine with a wide range of peripheral actions and is involved in the regulation of a number of physiological systems including reproduction. In the fed state, leptin circulates in the plasma in proportion to body adiposity in all species studied to date. However other factors such as sex, age, body mass index (BMI), sex steroids and pregnancy may also affect leptin levels in plasma. In pregnant mice and humans, the placenta is also a major site of leptin expression. Leptin circulates in biological fluids both as free protein and in a form that is bound to the soluble isoform of its receptor or other binding proteins such as one of the immunoglobulin superfamily members Siglec-6 (OB-BP1)."
More recent papers
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Search term: Endocrine Embryology | Endocrine Adipose Tissue | Endocrine Heart Tissue | Endocrine Gastrointestinal Tract |Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Cells

Endocrine Heart

  • Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) - Increase Filtration rate / decrease Na+ reabsorption
  • Endothelins - ET-1, ET-2, ET-3, Vasoconstriction / Increase NO
  • Nitric oxide (NO) - Vasodilatation

Links: Cardiovascular System Development | Search PubMed Endocrine Heart

Endocrine Lung

Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Cells

Neonatal Human Fetal Rabbit
Neonatal human pulmonary neuroendocrine cell EM01.jpg Fetal rabbit neuroepithelial body 01.jpg
Pulmonary neuroendocrine cell (EM)[2] Neuroepithelial body[2]
  • Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Cells (PNECs) develop in late embryonic to early fetal period.[3][4]
  • first cell type to differentiate in the airway epithelium.
    • differentiation regulated by proneural genes - mammalian homolog of the achaete-scute complex (Mash-1) and hairy and enhancer of split1 (Hes-1).[5]
  • later in mid-fetal period clusters of these cells form neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs).
  • located in the fetal lung at bronchiole branching points.
  • may stimulate mitosis to increase branching.
  • secrete 2 peptides - gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP)
    • Gastrin-releasing polypeptide (GRP) is a 27-amino acid neuropeptide, that binds to the GRP receptor a G protein-coupled receptor. GRP is the mammalian equivalent of the amphibian bombesin. Neonatal human lung initial high levels in PNECs then decreases.
    • Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a 37-amino acid neuropeptide, that binds to the CGRP receptor and induces increased intracellular cAMP levels.
  • in the adult these cells can also be a source for tumourogenesis.
Links: Respiratory System Development | OMIM - GRP | OMIM - CGRP

Endocrine Kidney

Kidney Endocrine
Hormone Function Comment
Renin increase angiotensin-aldosterone system paracrine, renin is released by juxtaglomerular cells
Prostaglandins decrease sodium (Na+) reabsorption paracrine, (PGE2) vasodilator regulate renal vascular reactivity
Erythropoietin increase Erythrocyte production endocrine, promotes red blood cell formation in bone marrow
1,25 (OH)2 vitamin D Calcium homeostasis endocrine, biologically active form of vitamin D
Prekallikreins increase Kinin production paracrine, act locally to induce vasodilation and contraction of smooth muscle

Nephron physiology.jpg

Links: renal | Endocrinology - Chapter 8 Cardiovascular and renal endocrinology | Search PubMed Endocrine Kidney

Gastrointestinal Tract Endocrine

The gastrointestinal tract has its own complex entero-endocrine system (enterohormones) that regulates many regional tract functions.

  • Gastrin - Secreted from stomach (G cells), role in control of gastric acid secretion
  • Cholecystokinin - small intestine hormone, stimulates secretion of pancreatic enzymes and bile
  • Secretin - small intestine hormone (epithelial cells), stimulates secretion of bicarbonate-rich fluids from pancreas and liver

Cells within the stomach express a range of peptide hormones known to regulate a range of gastric functions including secretion of digestive enzymes, mucous and the movement of the luminal contents.

The list below shows the earliest detectible presence of specific hormone-containing cells in regions of the developing human stomach.[6]

  • 8 weeks - Gastrin containing cells in stomach antrum. Somatostatin cells in both the antrum and the fundus.
  • 10 weeks - Glucagon containing cells in stomach fundus.
  • 11 weeks - Serotonin containing cells in both the antrum and the fundus.


Developing endocrine pancreas gherkin producing cells

Adult ghrelin is produced in the stomach and acts as a long-term regulator of energy metabolism and as a short-term regulation of feeding.

Prenatally may also have additional developmental and organisational effects.[8]

The developing pancreas also has a population of ghrelin-secreting cells that are not present in the adult, but are also seen expressed in some tumours.

Links: Gastrointestinal Tract Development | Endocrine Pancreas | Search PubMed Endocrine Gastrointestinal Tract

Adipose Tissue

Adiponectin Receptor Signaling[8]

The hormones leptin, adiponectin, and resistin are produced by adipose tissue. Of these hormones, we know the most about leptin, but it too is only a recent discovery (1994) and research has yet to uncover all this molecules hormonal roles. The role of the other listed "adipose hormones" is still even more speculative.[9]

  • Leptin - polypeptide hormone produced in adipose and many other tissues with also many different roles
  • Adiponectin - regulation of energy homeostasis and glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory on the cellular vascular wall
  • Resistin - (for resistance to insulin, RETN) a 108 amino acid polypeptide and the related resistin-like protein-beta (Resistin-like molecule-beta, RELMbeta) stimulate endogenous glucose production

The two forms of adipose are white and brown adipose tissue. Brown adipose is found in newborns (2 - 5 % of the body weight) and can be used to dissipate stored energy as heat (thermogenesis), while adults have mainly white adipose.


Leptin was discovered in 1994, named from the Greek word "leptos", meaning thin. This is a polypeptide hormone produced in adipose and many other tissues with also many different roles related to the inhibition of food intake and stimulation of energy expenditure.

In embryology, its levels are associated with fertility and reproductive maturity in many species. There are several additional hormonal roles in the adult including satiety, adiposity, and metabolism.

Leptin has also been shown to be produced by other tissues including the placenta.[10][1]

Leptin effects on female reproduction
Target Tissue Biological Process Biological Function Mechanism
Hypothalamus GnRH secretion Regulation of LH and FSH secretion Indirectly via kisspeptin
Pituitary Estrous cycles and ovulation FSH and LH release; LH plasticity and cyclicity
Ovary Ovarian steroidogenesis Estrogen production P450 aromatase; P450-17α hydroxylase
Ovary Folliculogenesis Low leptin promotes follicle development Promotes the transition of primordial to primary follicles
Embryo Embryogenesis Biophysical effect on embryo growth and quality Stimulates proliferation
Uterus Angiogenesis Stimulates metalloproteinase activity Inhibits terminal differentiation of committed giant cells
Table modified from:<pubmed>24908087</pubmed>

Links: Placenta Development


Adiponectin (ADIPOQ) a 244 amino acid secretory protein hormone (adipokine) involved in regulation of energy homeostasis and glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory on the vascular wall. Expression in the uterus during early pregnancy suggest that this hormone also has a role in the implantation, blocking the decidualisation process of the uterine stromal cells and preventing further trophoblast invasion.[11]

Suggested adult roles include suppressing the development of atherosclerosis and liver fibrosis and also as acting as an anti-inflammatory hormone.

Links: implantation | placenta | OMIM - Adiponectin | OMIM - Adiponectin Receptor 1 | OMIM - Adiponectin Receptor 2


Resistin (for resistance to insulin, RETN) a 108 amino acid polypeptide and the related resistin-like protein-beta (Resistin-like molecule-beta, RELMbeta) stimulate endogenous glucose production. Therefore increased adiposity can cause an insulin resistance, subsequently has a postulated role in fat and gut modulation of hepatic insulin action.

Results from a recent study on vitamin C on resistin levels.

Bo S, Ciccone G, Durazzo M, Gambino R, Massarenti P, Baldi I, Lezo A, Tiozzo E, Pauletto D, Cassader M, Pagano G. Efficacy of antioxidant treatment in reducing resistin serum levels: a randomized study. PLoS Clin Trials. 2007 May 4;2(5):e17.

Antioxidant treatment alteration (reduction) of resistin serum levels.

Links: OMIM - Resistin | OMIM - Resistin-like protein-beta

Links: Adipose Tissue Development | Search PubMed Endocrine Adipose Tissue | Search Leptin

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

A recent study has compared the levels of adipose hormones in normal and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) complicated pregnancies.[12]

In fetal tissue (placenta, amnion and choriodecidua) for the normal pregnancy they found higher levels of the adipose hormones than in GDM.

In maternal tissues (adipose tissue and skeletal muscle) for the GDM pregnancy women have higher leptin than in normal women.

Links: Maternal Diabetes


  1. 1.0 1.1 Herrid M, Palanisamy SK, Ciller UA, Fan R, Moens P, Smart NA & McFarlane JR. (2014). An updated view of leptin on implantation and pregnancy: a review. Physiol Res , 63, 543-57. PMID: 24908087
  2. 2.0 2.1 DiAugustine RP & Sonstegard KS. (1984). Neuroendocrinelike (small granule) epithelial cells of the lung. Environ. Health Perspect. , 55, 271-95. PMID: 6376101
  3. Cutz E. (1982). Neuroendocrine cells of the lung. An overview of morphologic characteristics and development. Exp. Lung Res. , 3, 185-208. PMID: 6188605
  4. Cutz E, Gillan JE & Bryan AC. (1985). Neuroendocrine cells in the developing human lung: morphologic and functional considerations. Pediatr. Pulmonol. , 1, S21-9. PMID: 3906540
  5. McGovern S, Pan J, Oliver G, Cutz E & Yeger H. (2010). The role of hypoxia and neurogenic genes (Mash-1 and Prox-1) in the developmental programming and maturation of pulmonary neuroendocrine cells in fetal mouse lung. Lab. Invest. , 90, 180-95. PMID: 20027181 DOI.
  6. Stein BA, Buchan AM, Morris J & Polak JM. (1983). The ontogeny of regulatory peptide-containing cells in the human fetal stomach: an immunocytochemical study. J. Histochem. Cytochem. , 31, 1117-25. PMID: 6136542 DOI.
  7. Suissa Y, Magenheim J, Stolovich-Rain M, Hija A, Collombat P, Mansouri A, Sussel L, Sosa-Pineda B, McCracken K, Wells JM, Heller RS, Dor Y & Glaser B. (2013). Gastrin: a distinct fate of neurogenin3 positive progenitor cells in the embryonic pancreas. PLoS ONE , 8, e70397. PMID: 23940571 DOI.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Reverchon M, Ramé C, Bertoldo M & Dupont J. (2014). Adipokines and the female reproductive tract. Int J Endocrinol , 2014, 232454. PMID: 24695544 DOI.
  9. Meier U & Gressner AM. (2004). Endocrine regulation of energy metabolism: review of pathobiochemical and clinical chemical aspects of leptin, ghrelin, adiponectin, and resistin. Clin. Chem. , 50, 1511-25. PMID: 15265818 DOI.
  10. Masuzaki H, Ogawa Y, Sagawa N, Hosoda K, Matsumoto T, Mise H, Nishimura H, Yoshimasa Y, Tanaka I, Mori T & Nakao K. (1997). Nonadipose tissue production of leptin: leptin as a novel placenta-derived hormone in humans. Nat. Med. , 3, 1029-33. PMID: 9288733
  11. Duval F, Dos Santos E, Moindjie H, Serazin V, Swierkowski-Blanchard N, Vialard F & Dieudonné MN. (2017). Adiponectin limits differentiation and trophoblast invasion in human endometrial cells. J. Mol. Endocrinol. , 59, 285-297. PMID: 28733350 DOI.
  12. <pubmed>16135665</pubmed>

Online Textbooks


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Search April 2010

  • endocrine adipose - All (75) Review (40) Free Full Text (12)
  • endocrine heart - All (140) Review (47) Free Full Text (22)
  • endocrine kidney - All (128) Review (19) Free Full Text (9)
  • endocrine gastrointestinal tract - All (115) Review (32) Free Full Text (13)

Search Pubmed: endocrine adipose | endocrine heart | endocrine kidney | endocrine gastrointestinal tract

Additional Images

Adult Histology


Endocrine Terms (expand to view) 
  • adenohypophysis - (anterior pituitary, pars distalis) anterior part of pituitary embryonic development from surface ectoderm adenohypophyseal placode. Placode folds inward on the roof of the pharynx forming a transient structure Rathke's pouch.
  • adrenocorticotropin - (ACTH or corticotropin) anterior pituitary, peptide hormone stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce corticosteroid hormones — primarily cortisol — as well as small amounts of female and male sex hormones.
  • androstenedione - hormone precursor of testosterone and other steroidal androgens.
  • atrial natriuretic peptide - (ANP) heart, peptide hormone regulates blood pressure. A study suggests that its activating enzyme corin, and ANP together, have a role in placentation, by promoting trophoblast invasion and spiral artery remodelling. (PMID 22437503)
  • basophil cell - pituitary named by histological staining (deep blue, purple) different types produce different hormones: corticotrophs (ACTH, CRH), gonadotrophs (FSH, LH, GnRH), and thyrotrophs (TSH, TRH). See acidophil and chromophore cells.
  • C cells - parafollicular cells of the thyroid.
  • calcitonin - (CT) C cells of thyroid, peptide hormone thyroid
  • corpus luteum - ovarian endocrine organ from ovulating follicle, stimulated by hCG and supports early pregnancy by secreting progesterone, 17β-progesterone, estradiol and androstenedione.
  • corticosteroid binding globulin - (CBG) binds and transports glucocorticoids in the plasma. Globin is synthesised in the liver. adrenal
  • dihydrotestosterone - (DHT) steroidal hormone made locally by 5-alpha reductase conversion of testosterone into a more active form in genital effects.
  • dehydroepiandrosterone - (DHEA, androstenolone) adrenal cortex, gonads and brain make this steroid intermediate that may also have adult hormonal functions.
  • dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate - (DHEAS, DHEA-S) fetal adrenal cortex makes this inactive precursor of a steroid hormone.
  • dydrogesterone - clinical oral retrosteroid structurally related to progesterone, with a greater bioavailability and selectivity for the progesterone receptor.
  • estrogen (oestrogen) family of female steroidal hormones - estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and estetrol (E4) synthesised from testosterone and androstenedione, by aromatase. Also produced in male testis, and required for genital development (PMID 29438493)
  • estrone (E1) - steroid hormone with weak estrogenic activity.
  • estradiol (E2) - (oestradiol) estrogen steroid hormone with main estrogenic female activity.
  • estriol (E3) - (oestriol) steroid hormone with weak estrogenic activity.
  • estetrol (E4) (oestetrol) steroid hormone with weak estrogenic activity produced only during pregnancy.
  • follicle stimulating hormone - (FSH) pituitary glycoprotein hormone secreted by gonadotrophs (basophilic cell subgroup) acts on gametogenesis and other systems in both males and females. Females, acts on the ovary to stimulate follicle development. Negative feedback by inhibin from the developing follicle decreases FSH secretion. Males, acts on the testis Sertoli cells to increase androgen-binding protein (ABP) that binds androgens and has a role in spermatogenesis.
  • growth hormone - (GH) pituitary, peptide hormone that stimulates tissue and skeletal growth. In the ovary, growth hormone also increases granulosa cell FSH-dependent E2 production.
  • growth hormone releasing hormone - (GHRH) hypothalamus‎, protein that activates growth hormone synthesis and release from the anterior pituitary.
  • human chorionic gonadotropin - (hCG) glycoprotein hormone with 2 subunits (alpha and beta joined non covalently). Similar in structure to luteinizing hormone (LH), hCG exists in multiple hormonal and non-endocrine agents (regular hCG, hyperglycosylated hCG and the free beta-subunit of hyperglycosylated hCG). PMID 19171054
  • human chorionic somatommotropin - (hCS, CSH, placental lactogen) Placental hormone is structurally similar to both growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL} and binds strongly to PRL receptors but weakly to GH receptors. Role in stimulating maternal mammary gland development. endocrine placenta
  • interstitial cell - (Leydig cell) Male testis cell secrete the androgen testosterone, required for fetal male genital tract differentiation and masculinisation after puberty.
  • Leydig cell - (interstitial cell) Male testis cell secrete the androgen testosterone, beginning in the fetus. These cells are named after Franz von Leydig (1821 - 1908) a German scientist who histologically described these cells.
  • lutenizing hormone - (LH, gonadotropin, lutropin, Interstitial Cell Stimulating Hormone, ICSH) pituitary, glycoprotein hormone acts on the gonad and has a role in male and female reproduction. Female, increase in concentration during the menstrual cycle triggers ovulation. Male, stimulates testis interstital cell production of testosterone. Gonadotrophins have been used clinically in humans for the treatment of female infertility.
  • melaocyte stimulating hormone - (MSH) pituitary, peptide hormone pituitary
  • melatonin - (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) pineal amino acid amino (precursor tryptophan) hormone involved with the diurnal cycle, melatoinin levels are high in dark, low in daylight. Also acts as an antioxidant, free radical scavenger, and anti-inflammatory molecule.
  • prolactin - (PRL) pituitary, peptide hormone pituitary
  • parathyroid - endocrine gland through parathyroid hormone (PTH) regulates calcium and phosphate levels in conjunction with parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland (calcitonin) and Vitamin D, dietary or synthesized in the skin. Develops from pharyngeal endoderm, in this case the 3rd and 4th pharyngeal pouches.
  • parathyroid hormone - (PTH) parathyroid, peptide hormone parathyroid
  • synthetic ACTH test = (synacthen test) A diagnostic test to both measure the amount of cortisol in the body and to determine the ability to produce cortisol.
  • testosterone - testis ovary steroidal hormone. In males is the androgen which regulates genital (gonadal and tract), secondary sex characteristics and neural development. The steroid is converted to the active metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase for the genital effects and estradiol by the enzyme aromatase for the neural effects.
  • thyroid - endocrine gland located in the neck with a developmental role in neurological development and metabolism.
  • thyroid diverticulum - the primordium of the thyroid gland, beginning as an median endodermal thickening in the floor of pharynx between the pharyngeal pouch 1 and 2.
  • thyroid hormone - (TH) thyroid amino acid derivative with two main forms (T3, T4) regulates tissue metabolic activity.
  • thyroid stimulating hormone - (TSH) pituitary protein hormone
  • ultimobranchial body - historic term for the embryonic structure that forms the parafollicular cells (C cells) of the thyroid.
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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, March 5) Embryology Endocrine - Other Tissues. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Endocrine_-_Other_Tissues

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© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G