August 10, 2011


A hormone (from Greek ὁρμή "impetus") is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. All multicellular organisms produce hormones; plant hormones are also called phytohormones. Hormones in animals are often transported in the blood. Cells respond to a hormone when they express a specific receptor for that hormone. The hormone binds to the receptor protein, resulting in the activation of a signal transduction mechanism that ultimately leads to cell type-specific responses.

Endocrine hormone molecules are secreted (released) directly into the bloodstream, whereas exocrine hormones (or ectohormones) are secreted directly into a duct, and, from the duct, they flow either into the bloodstream or from cell to cell by diffusion in a process known as paracrine signalling.

Recently it has been found that a variety of exogenous modern chemical compounds have hormone-like effects on both humans and wildlife. Their interference with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body can change the homeostasis, reproduction, development, and/or behavior the same as endogenous produced hormones."[1]

Hormonal signaling involves the following:[citation needed]

1. Biosynthesis of a particular hormone in a particular tissue
2. Storage and secretion of the hormone
3. Transport of the hormone to the target cell(s)
4. Recognition of the hormone by an associated cell membrane or intracellular receptor protein
5. Relay and amplification of the received hormonal signal via a signal transduction process: This then leads to a cellular response. The reaction of the target cells may then be recognized by the original hormone-producing cells, leading to a down-regulation in hormone production. This is an example of a homeostatic negative feedback loop.
6. Degradation of the hormone.

Hormone cells are typically of a specialized cell type, residing within a particular endocrine gland, such as thyroid gland, ovaries, and testes. Hormones exit their cell of origin via exocytosis or another means of membrane transport. The hierarchical model is an oversimplification of the hormonal signaling process. Cellular recipients of a particular hormonal signal may be one of several cell types that reside within a number of different tissues, as is the case for insulin, which triggers a diverse range of systemic physiological effects. Different tissue types may also respond differently to the same hormonal signal. Because of this, hormonal signaling is elaborate and hard to dissect.

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