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Overview of the Endocrine System

Author(s): Center for Educational Outreach, Baylor College of Medicine.

Major Components of the System

The endocrine system consists of the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and pineal glands, along with the pancreas, gonads and thymus. It also includes glands that secrete hormones in addition to other functions. Hormones are released into extracellular fluid by ductless glands and are carried to target cells via the bloodstream. Only the target cells for a given hormone can respond to it. 

The endocrine system also interacts and cooperates with the nervous system to control the activities of other organ systems. Because signaling by neurons can regulate the release of hormones, the nervous and endocrine systems often overlap in function.