Regulation of Corticosteroids

by Chick Newman, Ph.D., D.V.M.

Synthesis, Regulation, Discussion

Figure 1 illustrates (in truncated form) similarities between the parent molecule, cholesterol, and a couple of the "natural" steroids synthesized from it, cortisol and cortisone. All classes of steroids are made from cholesterol.

Fig.1: Similarities between cholesterol and corticosteroid molecules

Figure 2 is an overly simplified*schematic representation of the adrenal gland showing the approximate regions involved in the synthesis of glucocorticoids (the topic of discussion here) and the other classes of steroid hormones. Also shown, in idealized form, are the portions of the brain that regulate adrenal hormone synthesis/ release: the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Not included here but of importance in this general discussion is the diurnal (day/night-dependent) pathways affecting levels of circulating glucocorticoids, and mitigating factors that affect, selectively, certain regions of the pituitary gland. See below the following Figure 2 for detailed explanation.*

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The following are the salient features of the "hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis" (the "HPA"):

*Compendium, vol21:pp1134 (December, 1999) explains in some detail the different roles and regulatory factors that selectively affect release and inhibition of CRH and ACTH by the pars distalis and by pars intermedia lobes of the pituitary. The above discussion does not include these details and is meant only to be significant to a first approximation.

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