Endocrine system (vertebrate)
Clark, Nancy Barnes Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.
- Nature of hormones
- Additional Readings
A system of chemical communication among cells. The classical vertebrate endocrine system consists of a group of discrete glands that secrete unique products (hormones) into the bloodstream. These products travel in the blood to distant sites or targets where they cause specific physiological responses. Thus endocrine glands differ from exocrine glands, in that they lack ducts and deliver their secretions in the bloodstream. The classical definition of an endocrine system is harder to apply nowadays with the discovery of scattered cells rather than discrete glands that act as endocrine organs, of endocrine cells that affect themselves (autocrine effect) or nearby targets (paracrine effect) by diffusion through extracellular fluids rather than the bloodstream, and of neurons that secrete hormones (neurosecretion). All of these mechanisms, however, allow for chemical intercellular communication and can be considered part of the endocrine system. See also: Neurosecretion
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