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Protein Hormones

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Hormones Definition

Hormones are very important for the proper functioning of the human body and all of its glands. The endocrine system in the human body is responsible for producing hormones. There are some glands that are present in this system that help in the production of certain chemicals. These chemicals are called hormones. With the help of these glands, these hormones are released into the lymphatic system or the venous blood and through that, they get transported to the target organ. When the hormones reach out to their target organs, they are then taken up by the organ and then the functioning starts. 


Almost all hormones are proteins in nature. The protein hormones are also known as peptide hormones. The hormonal response in the human body is slow as compared to that of the nervous system. The hormones act on the hormone receptors. The hormones help in regulating, activating, and inhibiting the physiological processes. Some properties of hormones are: 

  • These hormones are released through endocrine glands and are absorbed by the organs. 

  • The hormones are highly specific in nature.

  • They are not able to initiate a reaction but they can influence the rate of reaction. 

  • The hormones are required in very small amounts.

  • They help in coordinating and controlling the different organs and their functions in the body. 

  • When there are certain stimuli, these hormones are released to tackle them. 

  • They are not responsible for producing energy. 


Mechanism of Hormone Action

The hormone when entered into the bloodstream can reach almost all the organs of the body. But as we read above, hormones are very specific in nature, so they only act on specific target organs for which they were released into the bloodstream. Two types of hormones are present that are lipid-soluble and lipid-insoluble. Testosterone and estrogen are lipid-soluble hormones whereas insulin and glucagon are lipids insoluble. As the plasma membrane of the cells is made up of lipid bilayer so the lipid-soluble hormones can easily pass through it whereas lipid insoluble hormones are not able to cross the plasma membrane. There are certain receptors that are known as hormone receptors that are present on the target organs. The hormones are able to produce their effect when they bind with the hormone receptors. They are also known as membrane-bound receptors as they are present on the cell membrane of the cell. A hormone-receptor complex is formed when the hormone binds to the receptor. These receptors are specific to one hormone and that is the reason behind the specificity of hormones. The metabolism of the target tissue and all the physiological functions are regulated by hormones. 


Interaction of Hormone with Membrane Receptors

Some hormones do not enter the target organ and they just interact with the membrane-bound receptors. The protein and peptide hormones usually function in such a way. They are able to produce secondary messengers. These hormones come in contact with the external domain that is present on the extracellular surface of the cell. A hormone-receptor complex is formed when this hormone binds to the receptor. This brings about some conformational changes in the cytoplasmic part of the receptor. This in turn helps to produce secondary messengers. The secondary messengers can be calcium ions, cyclic AMP, etc. These messengers help in activating the enzyme receptors and then the whole enzyme system. When this system is activated when there is an acceleration of the biochemical reactions of the cell. The hormone that binds to the receptor is known as the primary messenger and the secondary messengers are the calcium ions and cyclic AMPs that are produced afterwards. Growth hormone receptors and steroid hormone receptors also function the same way. 


Insulin Receptors

Insulin hormone binds to the extracellular receptors. Insulin has a receptor that is made up of a heterotetrameric protein that consists of four subunits. Two alpha and two beta subunits are present. These subunits protrude out of the cytoplasm. When the hormone binds to the receptor there are conformational changes in the beta subunits of the membrane. Tyrosine kinase enzyme is also present in the beta-subunits. This beta-subunit helps in adding phosphate groups to the beta-subunits and also to the specific tyrosine residues that are present in the cytoplasmic domain of the receptor. G-protein is also activated by some hormones and this, in turn, activates the phosphodiesterase enzyme. These mediators then help in releasing the calcium ions that act as other messengers. They help in bringing physiological changes and effects. 


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Protein Hormones

Insulin, glucagon, thyrocalcitonin, pituitary hormones, and hypothalamic hormones are examples of protein hormones. They are also known as polypeptide hormones. This is the list of peptide hormones. We will learn about them below.



Insulin is one of the peptide hormones. The production of human insulin takes place from the beta-cells of the pancreas. The insulin hormone is peptide or protein in nature. It helps in regulating glucose homeostasis in the body. It works by acting on different cells of the body such as hepatocytes, adipocytes, and muscle cells. By its action, these cells are then able to use up the glucose that is present in the blood and thus it helps in lowering the blood sugar levels in the body. Whenever there is an increase in the level of glucose in the body then the insulin hormone is released and this helps in:

  • Glucose is taken by cells of the body for respiration

  • Amino acids are taken up by the cells and thus help in the synthesis of protein.

  • Synthesis of fat by adipose tissue. 

  • Glucose is taken up by the liver and muscles. 

When the insulin hormone is not released in a proper amount then there can be problems in the proper functioning of the body. Diabetes mellitus is one of the disorders that is caused by insufficient amounts of insulin. As no insulin or very little insulin is produced by the body, the glucose is not taken up by the cells and remains as it is in the bloodstream. This causes problems to almost all the organs of the body, especially the eye and brain. In these cases, insulin from outside is administered to the patient to balance the body conditions. Liver and muscle cells are the target tissues of the insulin hormone. 



Glucagon is one of the peptide hormones. This hormone is also released from the pancreas. Alpha cells of the pancreas help in releasing the glucagon hormone. These cells are also called A-cells. They also help in maintaining glucose levels in the body. This glucagon hormone works opposite to that of insulin. On one hand, where insulin lowers the body’s glucose levels, the glucagon hormone helps in increasing the glucose levels of the blood. This hormone acts on the liver cells and then helps them to release the glucose by breaking down the stored glycogen. This hormone is responsible for the stimulation of the gluconeogenesis process. This means that more glucose formation is achieved by this process. It also helps in promoting the conversion of other nutrients like amino acids into glucose in the liver. Liver and adipose tissue are the target tissues of the glucagon hormone. 



This hormone is released from the thyroid gland. This hormone is known as the thyroid hormone. The functions of the thyroid hormones are:

  • Proteins, carbohydrates, and fat metabolism are controlled by the thyroid hormones. This in turn helps in regulating the growth and development of the body. 

  • These hormones are helpful in supporting the process of formation of red blood cells that is erythropoiesis. 

  • They also help in maintaining the water and electrolyte balance in the body. 

  • The physical and mental growth of all the tissues of the body is done with the help of thyroid hormones. 

  • The basal metabolic rate of the body is also controlled by thyroid hormones. When they increase the metabolic rate of the body then more heat energy is released from the body. 

  • Thyroid hormone also helps in the process of tissue differentiation in the body. 

  • The growth of tails of tadpoles is also influenced by thyroid hormones. 

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FAQs on Protein Hormones

1. What are the functions of the estrogen and progesterone hormones?

Estrogen is a hormone that is secreted by the ovary in females. The growing Graafian follicle is responsible for the release of the estrogen hormone. Follicle-stimulating hormone is mainly responsible for the secretion of estrogen hormone. It helps in controlling the appearance and the maintenance of the secondary sexual characters in females.

Progesterone is also a female hormone and is also released or secreted from the ovary of the female. The Corpus luteum helps in producing the progesterone hormone. The luteinizing hormone is mainly responsible for controlling the secretion of the progesterone hormone. This hormone helps in controlling the growth and maintenance of the endometrium layer of the uterus. This helps in providing support to pregnancy. 

2. Explain the hormones of the heart, liver, kidney and gastrointestinal tract.

The hormones of the heart, liver, kidney and gastrointestinal are explained below.

  • Heart: ANF or anti-natriuretic factor is also released by the atrial walls of our heart. This hormone helps in decreasing blood pressure. When the blood pressure rises, the ANF is released from the walls of the heart and this, in turn, helps in dilating the blood vessels. When the blood vessels get dilated then there is a decrease in the blood pressure automatically. This hormone also helps in inhibiting the secretion of renin from the kidney. The output of urine is increased when ANF is released into the blood and this, in turn, helps in decreasing the absorption of sodium ions and water from the kidney. 

  • Liver: Angiotensinogen is the hormone that is produced by the liver. This hormone is converted into angiotensin-1 with the help of renin enzymes. In the lungs, angiotensin-2 is formed from angiotensin-1. It helps in the release of aldosterone by the stimulation of the adrenal cortex. This hormone helps in increasing the resorption of the sodium ions from the distal convoluted tubule. The renin that is used here is released from the juxtaglomerular apparatus of nephrons in the kidney. 

  • Kidneys: Erythropoietin hormone is released from the juxtaglomerular cells of the kidney. This hormone helps in stimulating the process of erythropoiesis. By this, the bone marrow cells are activated and they release or make the production of the red blood cells. Renin hormone or renin enzymes are also released from the kidneys. These renin enzymes help to decrease arterial pressure and also in decreasing the sodium ion concentration. Calcitriol hormone is also released from the kidneys and this hormone helps in the absorption of calcium ions and phosphorus ions from the small intestines and then it helps in accelerating the formation of bones. 

  • Gastrointestinal Tract: Gastrin, secretin, cholecystokinin and gastric inhibitory peptide are some of the hormones that are released from the stomach. 

3.  Where can I get the notes for Protein Hormones along with appropriate FAQs?

The students can find the notes for Protein Hormones along with appropriate FAQs  at Vedantu. These notes are simple and easy to understand for every student who wishes to score good marks in their biology exams. The Students can easily find these at the Vedantu website or the Vedantu app. To get access to unlimited study materials, the students just need to sign in to and start studying smart. These notes ensure that you find excellence just a click away. 

4.  What is the importance of insulin?

Insulin is used in preventing excess sugar or glucose levels in the blood for humans. It helps to prevent Hyperglycemia and affects various other body parts as it is also used in the synthesis of lipids and control of enzymatic activity. If there is a deficiency of Insulin in the body of an individual then they are treated with regular insulin injections to keep regulating the blood sugar levels and are known to be suffering from the disease named Diabetes. It is synthesised by the pancreas. 

5. What is glucagon and what is it used for?

Glucagon is a hormone and is used for the breaking down of glycogen into glucose. It has the opposite function of Insulin as it is responsible for the increase in blood sugar levels or glucose levels and insulin tries to regulate it. People who suffer from low levels of glucose or sugar in the blood are given glucagon by external methods. This condition is also known as Hypoglycemia. Glucagon is produced in the alpha cells of the pancreas or specifically, in the islets of Langerhans.