Key Points

• The adrenal cortex secretes three classes of steroid hormones: mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens.

• Adrenal cortical hormones are derived from cholesterol. Relatively minor differences in functional groups on the steroid nucleus profoundly affect biological activity.

• Adrenal steroid hormones circulate in blood bound to plasma proteins and are degraded chiefly in the liver.

• The principal mineralocorticoid is aldosterone whose primary function is to maintain the vascular volume by regulating sodium retention by the kidney. Aldosterone also regulates potassium excretion by the kidney, sodium absorption in the colon, and sodium and potassium secretion in sweat and saliva.

• Angiotensin II is the primary stimulus for aldosterone secretion, but increased plasma concentrations of potassium also increase aldosterone secretion.

• The kidney responds to a decrease in vascular volume by secreting the enzyme renin, which hydrolyzes angiotensinogen in the blood to release angiotensin I, which is then converted to angiotensin II.

• Cortisol is the principal glucocorticoid. It preserves carbohydrate reserves by promoting gluconeogenesis in the liver, and by promoting protein degradation in muscle and lymphoid

Essential Medical Physiology, Third Edition

Copyright © 2004, Elsevier Science (USA) All rights reserved.

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