The pituitary the master gland

Published on 26th April 2021


How can the smallest thing make the biggest difference?

How can something so tiny affect something so complex?

It may sound improbable, but something the size of a pea has a massive impact on us, day in, day out.

Let me introduce the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland is so omnipotent is it in fact, that it?s commonly known as the master gland. |And like another grand master, Yoda, what it lacks in size it makes up for in power. Its influence is immense and our bodies would be lost without it.

Anatomy in a nutshell, or a saddle!

Weighing just 500mg, the pituitary gland sits cosily in a saddle-shaped cavity in the sphenoid bone of the skull. This bony home is called the sella turcica, as it resembles a Turkish saddle.

It has two lobes, the anterior and the posterior, and it is attached to the base of the brain. It is often referred to as the hypophysis, from the Greek meaning ?lying under?.

Its status as the master gland is solid - its secretions control organs as well as other glands.

So, what does it do?

Anterior lobe - maker and influencer

The anterior lobe synthesises and secretes the following hormones:

Human Growth Hormone hGH - this acts on most tissues, including bone, muscle and adipose tissue

Adrenocorticotrophin ACTH - acts on adrenal cortex

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone TSH - acts on thyroid gland

Luteinising Hormone LH - acts on gonads (ovaries and testes)

Follicle Stimulating Hormone FSH - acts on gonads (ovaries and testes)

Prolactin PRL - acts on mammary glands

Posterior lobe - storage facility

The posterior lobe does not manufacture. It stores hormones and secretes them when needed:

Antidiuretic Hormone ADH (Vasopressin) - this hormone helps maintain water levels for the body by promoting reabsorption of water by the kidneys

Oxytocin - causes the contraction of smooth muscle in uterine wall

Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone MSH

Grand master

As you can see, the pituitary gland affects nearly every part of the body. Through its secretions of hormones, it controls metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, reproduction and blood pressure, amongst others.

By now, you might well be nodding in appreciation for this master gland. Head to our online Anatomy and Physiology e-course to find out more. Discover the immense power of the smallest gland.


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