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BMED 3107

Integrated Body Systems

Endocrine & Reproductive
Department of Health &
Biomedical Sciences

Developmental Anatomy of the

Endocrine system
Microscopic Anatomy of the
Endocrine system

Embryology: Endocrine system

The endocrine system resides within specific endocrine
organs and both organs and tissues with other specific
functions. Epithelia (ectoderm and endoderm) form the
majority of the ductless endocrine glands. Differentiation
of several also organs involves a epithelial/mesenchye
interaction, seen in repeated in many differentiation of
many different tissues.

Development of the Hypothalamus

The diencephalon develops from the prosencephalon within
the walls of the primitive third ventricle.
The diencephalon gives rise to
the epithalamus, thalamus, and
The Hypothalamus develops
from the alar plate and floor plate
ventral to the hypothalamic

Development of the Hypophysis

The pituitary gland (hypophysis) is attached to the
hypothalamus by the pituitary stalk.
The anterior lobe (Adenohypophysis) develops
from Rathkes pouch, which is an ectodermal
diverticulum of the primitive oral cavity (stomodeum).
The posterior lobe (Neurophypophysis)
develops from the infundibulum, which is a
neuroectodermal ventral evagination of the

Development of Pharyngeal apparatus

The pharyngeal
consists of the
grooves, and

The pharyngeal apparatus is

first observed in week 4 of
development and gives the
embryo its distinctive
The pharyngeal apparatus
contribute to the formation of
structures in the head and

Thymus Development
Thymus epithelium derives from Endoderm - third pharyngeal
Week 6 - diverticulum elongates, hollow then solid, ventral cell
Thymic primordia - surrounded by neural crest mesenchyme,
epithelia/mesenchyme interaction
(Current research has shown that the human thymic epithelium derives
solely from the third pharyngeal pouch -as in the mouse).

Development of the Thyroid gland

In the midline of the floor of the

pharynx, the endodermal lining of
the foregut forms the thyroid
diverticulum. Thyroid
diverticulum migrates caudally.
During this migration, thyroid remain
connected to the tongue by the thyroglossal
duct, which later is obliterated.

Development of Parathyroid glands

Parathyroid glands are derived from Endoderm - third and
fourth pharyngeal pouches, could also have ectoderm and
neural crest.
3rd Pharyngeal Pouch - inferior parathyroid, initially
descends with thymus
4th Pharyngeal Pouch - superior parathyroid
Week 6 - diverticulum elongate, hollow then solid, dorsal cell
Fetal parathyroids - respond to calcium levels, fetal calcium
levels higher than maternal

Development of the Pancreas

The dorsal pancreatic bud is a direct outgrowth of foregut
endoderm, whose formation is induced by the notochord. The
ventral pancreatic duct is a direct outgrowth of foregut

Isolated clumps of endodermal cells bud from the

tubules and accumulate within the mesoderm to
form islet cells in the following sequence (first
last) alpha cells beta cells delta cells F
(PP) cells. Because of the 90o clockwise rotation
of duodenum, ventral bud rotates dorsally and
fuses with the dorsal bud.

Development of the Suprarenal glands

Inside the Adrenal (suprarenal) gland
is an embryonic cortex formed by
embryonic mesodermal cells which
completely surrounds an innermost
adrenal medulla derived
embryologically from neural crest
cells.(Neural crest cells differentiate
into chromaffin cells)
During the fetal period and at birth, the
suprarenal glands are very large due to the
size of the fetal cortex.
The zona glomerulosa and zona fasciculata
of the adult cortex are present at birth, but
the zona reticularis is not formed until age 3

Histology: Endocrine system

Thyroid gland
Pineal gland
Parathyroid glands
Adrenal glands

Because of its dual origin (ectoderm/developing brain), the
pituitary gland actually consists of two glands the posterior
neurohypophysis and the anterior adenohypophysis united
anatomically but with different functions.

The Neurohypophysis consists of a large part, the pars

nervosa (PN) and the smaller infundibulum (IS-infundibular
The Adenohypophysis has three parts: a large pars distalis
(anterior lobe)(PD), the pars tuberalis (PT), which wraps
around the infundibulum, and the thin pars intermedia (PI).

Adenohypophysis (Anterior lobe)

The anterior lobe of the pituitary glands is derived from the hypophyseal
pouch of the embryonic pharynx. The three parts of adenohypophysis are:
pars distalis, pars tuberalis, and pars intermedia.

Pars Distalis
75% of the gland
Fibroblasts are present and produce
reticular fibers supporting the cords of
hormone-secreting cells.
Common stains suggest two broad
groups of cells based on staining
affinity: chromofils (secretory cells)
and chromophobes (C). Chromofils
are also known as basophils (B) and
acidophils (A) according to their
affinity for basic or acidic dyes.


Acidophilics include the somatotropic and mammotropic cells, while the

basophilic cells are the gonadotropic, corticotropic, and thyrotropic cells.

Pars Tuberalis
Funnel-shaped region
surrounding the infundibulum
of neurohypophysis. Most of
the cells are basophilic
gonadotropic cells.

Pars Intermedia (PI)

Thin zone of basophilic cells
between the pars distalis (PD)
and the pars nervosa (PN) of
neurohypophysis. Pars
intermedia develops from
dorsal walls of hypophyseal
pouch and usually contain
colloid-filled cists (C)

Neurohypophysis (Posterior lobe)

Neurohypophysis consists of the
pars nervosa and the infundibular
The pars nervosa does not contain
secretory cells. It is composed of
neural tissue, containing some
100,000 unmyelinated axons of
secretory neurons situated in the
supraoptic and paraventricular
nuclei of the hypothalamus. Also
present are highly branched glial
cells (pituicytes) (P).
Hormones are transported
axonally into the pars nervosa and
accumulate in axonal dilations
called neurosecretory bodies
(Herring bodies) (NB)

Adrenal gland

Located on the superior poles of each kidney

Half-moon shape
4-6 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, 4-6 mm thick
Covered by a dense CT capsule that send thin septa to the
interior of the gland as a trabeculae.
The stroma consists mainly of a rich network of reticular fibers
that support the secretory cells.

The gland consists of two concentric layers: a yellowish

peripheral layer, the adrenal cortex, and a reddish-brown
central layer, the adrenal medulla.

Adrenal cortex
Cells have characteristics
features of steroid-secreting
cells. (central nuclei, acidophilic
cytoplasm, lipid droplets, profuse


Fetal Adrenal cortex

At birth in humans the adrenal gland is larger than of the
adult and produced up to 200 mg of corticosteroids per day,
twice that of an adult.
At this age, a layer known as the fetal or provisional cortex,
comprising 80% of the total gland, is present between the
thin permanent cortex and an under-developed medulla.

Adrenal medulla
Adrenal medulla is composed of large, pale-staining
polyhedral cells arranged in cords or clumps and supported
by a reticular fiber network.
The hormonesecreting cells of
adrenal medulla are
chromaffin cells,
which resemble
neurons lacking
axons and

The pancreatic islets
(Islets of Langerhans) are
compact spherical
masses of endocrine
tissue embedded within
the acinar exocrine tissue
Make up 1-2 % of the
organs volume.
Each islet consists of
polygonal or rounded
cells, smaller, and more
lightly stained than the
surrounding acinar cells.

A low-magnification micrograph
reveals many islets stained lighter than
the surrounding tissue. The white spots
are adipocytes.

The major hormone-producing islet cells are most easily

identified and studied by immunohistochemistry:
Alpha cells usually located near the periphery of the islets
Beta cells located centrally in islets (insulin)
Delta cells scattered and much less abundant. (somatostatin)
F (PP) cells more commonly located within the head of the pancreas
(pancreatic polypeptide)

C- capillaries

Thyroid gland
The parenchyma of the thyroid is composed of millions of
rounded epithelial structures known as thyroid follicles. Each
follicle consists of a simple epithelium and a central lumen
filled with a gelatinous substance called colloid. The gland is
covered by a fibrous capsule from which septa extend into the
parenchyma, dividing it into lobules.
C- capsule, S- septa, L- lumen

Follicular cells (F) range in shape from squamous to low

columnar and the follicles are quite variable in diameter.
Another endocrine cell type, the Parafollicular, or C, cells (C)
derived from neural crest cells migrating into the area of
embryonic foregut. C cells may be part of the follicular
epithelium or present singly or in groups outside of follicles.
The Lumen is surrounded by a simple epithelium in which the
cell height ranges from squamous to low columnar.

Parathyroid glands
Four small oval masses each 3 x 6 mm with a total weight
of about 0.4 g located on the back of the thyroid gland. Each
gland is contained within a capsule of CT. (S- septa)
Two types of cells are
present in the
Parathyroid glands:
Chief (Principal)
cells (P)
Small polygonal cells with
round nuclei and palestaining acidophilic

Oxyphil cells (O)

More common in the
elderly. Acidophilic
cytoplasm. May occur
singly or in clumps

Pineal gland
Also known as Pineal
body or Epiphysis.
Small pine, cone-shaped
5-8 mm in length and 3-5
mm width.
150 mg
Develops with the brain
from neuroectoderm in
the roof of the
diencephalon and is found
in the posterior of the third
ventricle, attached to the
brain by a short stalk.

The secretory cells,

pynealocytes (P), which
have slightly basophilic
cytoplasm and large,
irregular euchromatic nuclei.
Interstitial cells (A)
resemble astrocytes.
A characteristic feature is the
presence of an extracellular
mineral deposit called a
corpus arenaceum (CA)

V- blood vessels , = capillaries