July 30, 2012

Adrenal Gland and Its Hormones

The adrenal glands are vital organs which every medical student need to be familiar with. This article describe mnemonics for the layers and hormones of the adrenal gland.

In this article:
A. Brief anatomy
B. Memory aid

Brief anatomy

The adrenal gland describes the paired organs, each of which sits on the two kidneys. They are very vital for the normal functioning of the body.

The human adrenals comprise of two layers - the outer cortex and the inner medulla - which together secrete several hormones.

Memory aid/Mnemonics

Below are mnemonics to aid memory for the layers and hormones of the adrenal gland.

1). The Adrenal cortex
The 3 zones or layers of the cortex (from outermost to innermost) can easily be remembered by -- GFR:
  • Glomerulosa,
  • Fasciculata,
  • Reticularis.
The outer cortex produces steroids.

These steroid products are grouped into 3 classes based on their predominant physiological effects (from outermost to innermost layer).

You may easily remember them with this mnemonic -- For salt, sugar, and sex; the deeper you go, the sweeter it gets:
  • Salt - mineralocorticoid (aldosterone),
  • Sugar - glucocorticoids (cortisol),
  • Sex - sex hormones i.e. androgens.
The major hormones secreted by the cortex starts with either of letters A or C: Androgen, Aldosterone, Cortisol.

2). The Adrenal medulla
The adrenal medulla secrete the stress hormones - Epinephrine and Norepinephrine - in response to stress in MEN:
  • Medulla => Epinephrine + Norepinephrine
The inner medulla synthesizes, stores and secretes catecholamines.

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