Pituitary Gland

Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is a small endocrine system organ that controls a multitude of important functions in the body. Credit: SEER Training Modules / U. S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is a small endocrine organ that controls a multitude of important functions in the body. It is divided into an anterior lobe, intermediate lobe and posterior lobe, all of which are involved in hormone production. The posterior pituitary is composed of axons from the neurons of the hypothalamus.

Blood vessel connections between the hypothalamus and pituitary allow hypothalamic hormones to control pituitary hormone secretion.

The pituitary gland is termed the "Master Gland" because it directs other organs and endocrine glands, such as the adrenal glands, to suppress or induce hormone production.

Pituitary Function

The pituitary gland is involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Growth Hormone Production
  • Production of Hormones That Act on Other Endocrine Glands
  • Production of Hormones That Act on the Muscles and the Kidneys
  • Endocrine Function Regulation
  • Storage of Hormones Produced by the Hypothalamus


Directionally, the pituitary gland is located in the middle of the base of the brain, inferior to the hypothalamus.

Pituitary Hormones

Hormones secreted by the pituitary gland include:

  • Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) - helps maintain water balance by decreasing water loss in urine.
  • Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) - stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Growth Hormone - stimulates growth of tissues and bone, as well as the breakdown of fat.
  • Luteinizing Hormone (LH) - stimulates male and female gonads to release sex hormones, testosterone in men and estrogens and progesterone in women.
  • Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH) - promotes the production of male and female gametes (sperm and ova).
  • Oxytocin - promotes lactation, maternal behavior, social bonding, and sexual arousal.
  • Prolactin - stimulates breast development and milk production in women.
  • Thyroid-stimulating Hormone (TSH) - stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones.

Divisions of the Brain

  • Forebrain - encompasses the cerebral cortex and brain lobes.
  • Midbrain - connects the forebrain to the hindbrain.
  • Hindbrain - regulates autonomic functions and coordinates movement.