||Endocrine System : Target Cells
Hormones and Target Cells
Hormones are powerful messenger molecules that control essential body functions by carrying messages from endocrine glands to target cells and tissues. Some hormonal actions cause short-term changes, such as a faster heartbeat or sweaty palms. Others dictate long-term development, such as bone and muscle growth. Still other hormones control continual body functions, such as maintaining body fluids, heart rate and metabolism.
Hormones have many unique features and interact with target cells in specific ways.
Finding A Partner
The endocrine system is a complex communication network made up of specialized cells, glands and hormones. The glands release hormones into the blood or the fluid surrounding cells in response to stimuli from inside and outside the body.
Once released, hormones travel throughout the body looking for target cells that contain matching receptors. The hormone binds with the receptor, something like how a key fits a lock to unlock a door. Hormones, like keys, need to have a compatible receptor, or lock, in order to work. In the same way that a skeleton key cannot open a car door, a male sex hormone cannot produce masculine features if the target cell does not have receptors, or locks, that can read the hormone, or accept the key.
The protein receptor, depending on the type of hormone and its specific message, carries out the messenger's instructions by either altering the cell's existing proteins or turning on genes that will build a new protein. Both actions create a wide array of body responses.
For instance, steroid hormones, like the sex hormone groups estrogens and androgens, seek out specific target cells and bind to receptor proteins located inside the nucleus of the cell, as shown below. This lock and key binding triggers the cell's DNA to start building certain proteins, such as another hormone or an enzyme.
Each hormone-receptor unit produces different cellular and body responses because each unit turns on distinct genes that code for a specific protein. Different proteins, in turn, cause unique biological responses: estrogens can stimulate uterine growth and androgens can stimulate muscle growth.
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