Adrenal Cortex

In all species thus far studied, the adrenal cortex is essential for maintenance of life. Insufficiency of adrenal cortical hormones (Addison's disease) produced by pathologic destruction or surgical removal of the adrenal cortices results in death within 1-2 weeks unless replacement therapy is instituted. Virtually every organ system goes awry with adrenal cortical insufficiency, but the most likely cause of death appears to be circulatory collapse secondary to sodium depletion. When food intake is inadequate, death may result instead from insufficient amounts of glucose in the blood (hypoglycemia).

Adrenal cortical hormones have been divided into two categories based on their ability to protect against these two causes of death. The so-called mineralocorti-coids are necessary for maintenance of sodium and potassium balance. Aldosterone is the physiologically important mineralocorticoid, although some deoxycor-ticosterone, another potent mineralocorticoid, is also produced by the normal adrenal gland (Fig. 2). Cortisol


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