The Human Body

Pituitary Gland

Pituitary Gland is the master endocrine gland in vertebrate animals. It secretes hormones that control the activity of other endocrine glands and regulate various biological processes. Its secretions include growth hormone (which stimulates cellular activity in bone, cartilage, and other structural tissue); thyroid stimulating hormone (which causes the thyroid to release metabolism-regulating hormones); antidiuretic hormone (which causes the kidney to excrete less water in the urine); and prolactin (which stimulates milk production and breast development in females). The pituitary gland is influenced both neurally and hormonally by the hypothalamus.

The pituitary is a small bean-shaped, reddish-gray organ located in the saddle-shaped depression (sella turcica) in the floor of the skull (the sphenoid bone) and attached to the base of the brain by a stalk; it is located near the hypothalamus. The pituitary has two lobes—the anterior lobe, or adenohypophysis, and the posterior lobe, or neurohypophysis—which differ in structure and function. The anterior lobe is derived embryologically from the roof of the pharynx and is composed of groups of epithelial cells separated by blood channels; the posterior lobe is derived from the base of the brain and is composed of nervous connective tissue and nervelike secreting cells. The area between the anterior and posterior lobes of the pituitary is called the intermediate lobe; it has the same embryological origin as the anterior lobe.