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Adrenal gland- Quick revision card

Adrenal gland – Two adrenal glands just above each kidney Each weigh about 4-6 gm , 3 cm wide , 5 cm high and 1 cm thick Adrenal cortex is the outer part which makes about 90 % of the gland Adrenal medulla is the inner region & makes < 10 % of the gland.


Adrenal cortex – Steroidogenesis – produces precursors for glucocorticoids , mineralocorticoids and androgens Made of 3 layers
○ zona glomerulosa the outermost layer ( Aldosterone )
○ zona fasciculata middle layer ( Corticosteroids )
○ zona reticularis innermost layer ( androgens ) Steroidogenesis is the complex pathway which leads to transform cholesterol into steroid hormones ACTH ( Adrenocorticotrophic hormone ) is the main hormone which regulates adrenal glucocorticoid biosynthesis and secretion.


Adrenal medulla – part of the autonomic nervous system activated by similar stimuli as the sympathetic nervous system as exercise , cold , stress , bleeding major cells are called chromaffin cells medulla secretes
○ epinephrine ( 80 % )
○ norepinephrine ( 19 % )
○ dopamine ( 1 % ) Others- acetylcholine , metenkephalin , chromogranin A considered as part of the sympathetic NS and is innervated by cholinergic paraganglion sympathetic NS


Aldosterone – regulates plasma concentration of minerals and salts – most importantly of ionic Na + and K + important regulators of aldosterone are the Renin angiotensin system ( RAS ) and potassium excretion released when Na conc is low and helps raise plasma Na+ conc by various mechanisms ( mainly by action on nephrons by directly impacting Na absorption and potassium excretion )


Glucocorticoids – cortisol is the major glucocorticoid long term stress hormone regulated by the HPA axis affects nearly all body functions such as mediating the stress response , regulating metabolism , inflammatory response & immune function.

Androgens- Adrenal androgens ( DHEA) require peripheral conversion to active sex steroids in the gonads and peripheral tissue


Catecholamine’s- enhances the effect of the sympathetic NS prepares the body for a stressful event two major catecholamines are the adrenaline 
( epinephrine ) and noradrenaline ( norepinephrine ) derived from enzyme tyrosine act as hormone and neurotransmitters.

Epinephrines – more potent stimulator of the heart and metabolic activities actions of NA on the heart
( adrenaline rush ) is by its binding to beta adrenergic receptors causing an accelaration of heart rate , increasing BP by promoting vasoconstriction acts on all body tissues.

Norepinephrines – leads to peripheral vasoconstriction and increased arterial pressure along with epinephrine participates in the flight or fight response by increasing HR , releasing glucose from energy stores and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscles.


  1. Clinical Practice Systems of life Endocrine System 4 : adrenal glands *210728-Endocrine-system-4-adrenal-glands1.pdf (
  2. The adrenals by The Adrenals Part 1- anatomy and physiology (
  3. What are the symptoms of adrenal gland disorders? What are the symptoms of adrenal gland disorders? | NICHD – Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (
  4. Medicine 438’s Endocrine Physiology Lecture XIII : Physiology of Adrenal Medulla and Pheochromocytoma 13th Lecture_ Physiology of Adrenal Medulla and Pheochromocytoma – Endocrine Physiology .pdf (


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