Section I. OVERVIEW
The adrenocortical hormones are a group of chemical substances produced by
the adrenal glands (suprarenal glands). These hormones are of particular importance
to the body because they perform a variety of essential physiological functions. This
lesson will review the physiology of these hormones and discuss some medications you
have probably dispensed from your pharmacy.
THE ADRENAL GLANDS (SUPRARENAL GLANDS) AND THEIR PRODUCTS
Embedded in the fat above each kidney is an adrenal (suprarenal) gland. Both
adrenal glands have an external portion and an internal portion. The external portion of
the adrenal gland is called the cortex, while the internal portion of the gland is called the
medulla. Both the cortex and the medulla produce specific hormones that are essential
to the proper functioning of the body. As you will recall (Lesson 6, para 6-10a), the
medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine. Epinephrine and norepinephrine
are involved in the mobilization of energy during the stress reaction ("fight or flight"
response). The cortex also produces hormones that are essential to the body. These
hormones are introduced below.
HORMONES PRODUCED BY THE CORTEX OF THE ADRENAL GLANDS
The cortex of the adrenal gland produces hormones that can be grouped into
three major groups of substances based on what they do in the body:
a. Mineralocorticoids. These hormones serve to control the electrolytes'
potassium, sodium, and chloride in the body.
b. Glucocorticoids. These hormones serve to affect the metabolism of fat,
glucose, and protein in the body.
c. Androgens. These hormones produce masculinizing effects in the body.
This lesson will focus on the mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.