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Reproduction, growth, stress, and metabolism are determined by endocrine/neuroendocrine systems that regulate circulating hormone concentrations. All these systems generate rhythms and changes in hormone pulsatility observed in a variety of pathophysiological states. Thus, the output of endocrine/neuroendocrine systems must be regulated within a narrow window of effective hormone concentrations but must also maintain a capacity for plasticity to respond to changing physiological demands. Remarkably most endocrinologists still have a "textbook" view of endocrine gland organization which has emanated from 20th century histological studies on thin 2D tissue sections. However, 21st -century technological advances, including in-depth 3D imaging of specific cell types have vastly changed our knowledge. We now know that various levels of multicellular organization can be found across different glands, that organizational motifs can vary between species and can be modified to enhance or decrease hormonal release. This article focuses on how the organization of cells regulates hormone output using three endocrine/neuroendocrine glands that present different levels of organization and complexity: the adrenal medulla, with a single neuroendocrine cell type; the anterior pituitary, with multiple intermingled cell types; and the pancreas with multiple intermingled cell types organized into distinct functional units. We give an overview of recent methodologies that allow the study of the different components within endocrine systems, particularly their temporal and spatial relationships. We believe the emerging findings about network organization, and its impact on hormone secretion, are crucial to understanding how homeostatic regulation of endocrine axes is carried out within endocrine organs themselves. © 2022 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 12:3371-3415, 2022.

Original publication




Journal article


Compr Physiol

Publication Date





3371 - 3415


Endocrine Glands, Hormones, Humans, Neurosecretory Systems, Reproduction