The Pituitary Gland

Anatomy of the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master" gland of the endocrine system because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea, and is located at the base of the brain. The gland is attached to the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that affects the pituitary gland) by nerve fibers and blood vessels. The pituitary gland itself consists of 2 major structures:

  • Anterior lobe

  • Posterior lobe

Functions of the pituitary gland

Each lobe of the pituitary gland makes certain hormones.

Anterior lobe

  • Growth hormone

  • Prolactin (to stimulate milk production in the female breast)

  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone which regulates  the adrenal glands)

  • TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone which regulates the thyroid gland)

  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone which regulates the ovaries and testes)

  • LH (luteinizing hormone which regulates the ovaries or testes)

Posterior lobe

  • ADH (antidiuretic hormone is actually produced in the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland; it increases absorption of water by the kidneys. It also increases blood pressure)

  • Oxytocin (to contract the uterus during childbirth and stimulate the release of milk during breastfeeding)