A pair of testis is present in the scrotal sac (outside abdomen) of male individuals. Testis performs dual functions as a primary sex organ as well as an endocrine gland. Testis is composed of seminiferous tubules and stromal or interstitial tissue. The Leydig cells or interstitial cells, which are present in the intertubular spaces produce a group of hormones called androgens mainly testosterone. Androgens regulate the development, maturation and functions of the male accessory sex organs like epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, prostate gland, urethra etc. These hormones stimulate muscular growth, growth of facial and axillary hair, aggressiveness, low pitch of voice etc. Androgens play a major stimulatory role in the process of spermatogenesis (formation of spermatozoa). Androgens act on the central neural system and influence the male sexual behaviour (libido). These hormones produce anabolic (synthetic) effects on protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
Females have a pair of ovaries located in the abdomen. Ovary is the primary female sex organ which produces one ovum during each menstrual cycle. In addition, ovary also produces two groups of steroid hormones called estrogen and progesterone. Ovary is composed of ovarian follicles and stromal tissues. The estrogen is synthesised and secreted mainly by the growing ovarian follicles. After ovulation, the ruptured follicle is converted to a structure called corpus luteum, which secretes mainly progesterone.
Estrogens produce wide ranging actions such as stimulation of growth and activities of female secondary sex organs, development of growing ovarian follicles, appearance of female secondary sex characters (e.g., high pitch of voice, etc.), mammary gland development. Estrogens also regulate female sexual behaviour.
Progesterone supports pregnancy. Progesterone also acts on the mammary glands and stimulates the formation of alveoli (sac-like structures which store milk) and milk secretion.
On the basis of their chemical nature, hormones can be divided into groups:
Hormones which interact with membrane-bound receptors normally do not enter the target cell, but generate second messengers (e.g., cyclic AMP, IP3, Ca2+ etc) which in turn regulate cellular metabolism. Hormones which interact with intracellular receptors (e.g., steroid hormones, iodothyronines, etc.) mostly regulate gene expression or chromosome function by the interaction of hormone-receptor complex with the genome. Cumulative biochemical actions result in physiological and developmental effects.
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