The Human Body

Endocrine System

Endocrine System, group of specialized organs and body tissues that produce, store, and secrete chemical substances known as hormones. As the body's chemical messengers, hormones transfer information and instructions from one set of cells to another. Because of the hormones they produce, endocrine organs have a great deal of influence over the body. Among their many jobs are regulating the body's growth and development, controlling the function of various tissues, supporting pregnancy and other reproductive functions, and regulating metabolism.

Endocrine organs are sometimes called ductless glands because they have no ducts connecting them to specific body parts. The hormones they secrete are released directly into the bloodstream. In contrast, the exocrine glands, such as the sweat glands or the salivary glands, release their secretions directly to target areas—for example, the skin or the inside of the mouth. Some of the body's glands are described as endo-exocrine glands because they secrete hormones as well as other types of substances. Even some nonglandular tissues produce hormone-like substances—nerve cells produce chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, for example.