What Is a Master Endocrine Gland?

Dan Harkins

The master endocrine gland is another way of referring to the tiny pituitary gland at the bass of the skull, where it meets the spinal column. Of the body's eight types of hormone-producing glands, this endocrine gland gets its orders directly from the brain's centrally located hypothalamus. When the pituitary gland receives these hormonal secretions from the hypothalamus, it in turn releases any number of hormones itself to control the other glands and their scattered secretions throughout the body.

The master gland oversees the function of all of the other glands in the endocrine system.
The master gland oversees the function of all of the other glands in the endocrine system.

The first word in master endocrine gland might be a big misleading. It is actually the hypothalamus that is the master endorphine gland, since it also secretes hormonal signals that lead through what is called the hypophyseal portal artery to the pituitary, which produces what it is told chemically to make for the other glands. Further, the hypothalamus secretes another hormonal compound — somatostatin, which causes the pituitary to suspend production of the human growth hormone.

The pancreas gland plays a vital role in digestion and in insulin and glucagon production.
The pancreas gland plays a vital role in digestion and in insulin and glucagon production.

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The master endocrine gland that is connected directly to the hypothalamus is constructed of three different factories, called lobes, which produce different hormones. Oxytocin for stimulating birth and the antidiuretic hormone to increase water in the bloodstream are made by the posterior lobe. A hormone to regulate skin tone and pigment are made by the intermediate pituitary lobe. Most of the work though falls on the anterior lobe: prolactin to begin lactation, growth hormone, and other compounds to stimulate the pineal, andrenal, thyroid, parathyroid and reproductive glands.

The thyroid gland makes thyroid hormones.
The thyroid gland makes thyroid hormones.

In all, signal hormones are sent from the master endocrine gland to trigger different activity needed for life. The hormones sent to the ovaries or testes, for instance, trigger the production of estrogen, progesterone and other secretions for female development and reproduction as well as the testosterone and other androgens responsible for making men reproductive. In a similar fashion, to control the thyroid in the neck, the master endocrine gland receives a thyrotropin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, then produces and sends a hormonal message to the thyroid gland. That gland then is triggered to make thyroid hormones responsible for several crucial bodily functions, from regulating the blood and heart to maintaining muscle and digesting food.

Though not technically a gland, the pancreas behind the stomach has some important glandular functions. One of this organ's two parts make hormones. The endocrine pancreas makes hormones like insulin, which maintains the body's proper blood-sugar level. The other part, called the exocrine pancreas, makes enzymes crucial to healthy digestion.

The endocrine pancreas makes hormones like insulin, which maintains the body's proper blood-sugar level.
The endocrine pancreas makes hormones like insulin, which maintains the body's proper blood-sugar level.

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