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Hormones of the Testes and Ovaries: Functions & Anatomical Features

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  • 0:06 Gonads
  • 0:44 Ovaries
  • 1:20 Estrogen and Progesterone
  • 3:37 Testes and Testosterone
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The testes and the ovaries secrete steroid hormones that help you grow and develop. In this lesson, we will learn about the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and the male hormone, testosterone, and how these hormones influence the development of secondary sex characteristics.

Gonads

As we have learned in our study of the endocrine system, hormones play a controlling role during every stage of development. From a baby's first birthday to his or her retirement years, hormones are produced and secreted to help deal with the complexities of being a human. In this lesson, we will take a look at the hormones produced by the gonads that play a key role in your growth and development.

The gonads are the organs that make sex hormones and reproductive cells. We do see that sex hormones are produced by the adrenal cortex; however, the secretion of sex hormones from the adrenal cortex is minimal compared to the amount produced by the gonads.

Ovaries

Location of the ovaries in females
Female Gonads

The ovaries are the female gonads. The ovaries are paired organs that are found in the pelvic cavity. The ovaries are the organs that produce the egg, which is the female reproductive cell that, if fertilized, will give rise to the embryo.

The ovaries also produce steroid hormones, which we will learn about shortly. The ovaries are present in a baby girl, but they do not become functional until puberty. At puberty, the ovaries are stimulated by tropic hormones from the anterior pituitary gland, and this leads to the rhythmic ovarian cycle that a woman experiences until menopause.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Estrogen is a steroid hormone that helps control and guide female sexual development. Estrogen is responsible for stimulating the development of female secondary sex characteristics. We know that secondary sex characteristics are defined as characteristics specific to females or males, but not directly related to reproduction. Therefore, in a female, we see estrogen helps with such things as development of the breasts, widening of the hips, and the growth of body hair.

Estrogen works in harmony with progesterone, which is a steroid hormone that acts to prepare the uterus to receive the fertilized egg and maintain pregnancy. While it is correct to say that progesterone is secreted by the ovaries, it's more correct to say that it is a hormone produced by the corpus luteum of the ovaries. The corpus luteum is a structure that develops in an ovary after the egg has been discharged.

So, the corpus luteum is the structure that remains after ovulation, which is the discharge of the egg. This structure produces progesterone for a few days after ovulation and then degenerates, unless pregnancy occurs. If pregnancy does occur, the corpus luteum remains and continues to produce progesterone.

The corpus luteum remains only if pregnancy occurs after ovulation.
Corpus Luteum

This ensures that the lining of the uterus is maintained, and not sloughed off, until the placenta is developed enough to take over progesterone's production. So, we see that the release of estrogen and progesterone from the ovaries is needed for reproduction to occur. If these hormones are under-produced, it will severely impede the woman's ability to conceive a child.

As we previously learned, hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary gland influence the ovaries. As we often see in our study of the endocrine system, the hormonal secretions from one endocrine gland stimulate another endocrine gland to secrete its hormones. This is the case when we talk about the hormone secreted from the gonads.

Structure of the pituitary gland in the brain
Pituitary Gland Closeup

Luteinizing hormone, or LH, is a hormone from the anterior pituitary that influences the ovaries and triggers ovulation of the egg, which leads to the creation of the corpus luteum. Follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, is a second tropic hormone from the anterior pituitary that stimulates production of the egg.

Testes and Testosterone

The male gonads are within the scrotal sac.
Male Gonads

The testes are the male gonads. Like the ovaries, the testes are paired organs, but unlike the ovaries, the testes are found outside the pelvic cavity and are contained in the scrotal sac. The testes are the organs that produce sperm, which is the male reproductive cell.

The testes also produce steroid hormones, much like we see from their female counterpart, the ovaries. The male sex hormones are collectively referred to as androgens. Testosterone is the most important androgen and can be defined as a steroid hormone that helps control and guide male sexual development. Testosterone is responsible for stimulating the development of male secondary sex characteristics by promoting growth and maturation. As a male reaches puberty, testosterone is the hormone responsible for lowering his voice, the growth of his beard, and the development of his muscles.

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