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Question Video: Describing the Primary Function of Adrenaline and Noradrenaline Biology

What is the primary function of the adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) hormones? [A] To balance the mineral and water contents of the body. [B] To regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates in the body to maintain normal concentrations of blood glucose. [C] To regulate the development of sexual organs and characteristics. [D] To respond to signals from the sympathetic nervous system and induce the fight or flight response.

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Video Transcript

What is the primary function of the adrenaline, epinephrine, and noradrenaline, norepinephrine, hormones? To balance the mineral and water contents of the body. To regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates in the body to maintain normal concentrations of blood glucose. To regulate the development of sexual organs and characteristics. Or to respond to signals from the sympathetic nervous system and induce the fight-or-flight response.

The question is asking us about the function of adrenaline and of noradrenaline, two hormones that are released from the adrenal glands. So that we can work out which option is correct, let’s have a look at the main hormones released from the different regions of the adrenal glands and their functions. The adrenal glands are small hormone-releasing glands that sit above each of our kidneys. This image shows us a cross section taking through one of the adrenal glands, showing us that it consists of two main distinct regions, the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla.

These two regions are responsible for releasing different groups of hormones with different structures and functions. The adrenal cortex releases three main groups of hormones. One of these groups are called mineralocorticoids. The mineralocorticoids are responsible for balancing the mineral or salt and water levels in the blood by stimulating the selective reabsorption of sodium and water in the kidneys. Another group of hormones released by the adrenal cortex are glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are partly responsible for regulating carbohydrate metabolism in the body. For example, glucocorticoids help to increase the production of glucose from fats and proteins when the human body is under stress and requires more energy.

Androgens, sometimes known as sex hormones, are mainly secreted from the ovaries in females and testes in males but are also released in small quantities from the adrenal cortex. Sex hormones are responsible for regulating the development of sexual organs. They also control how secondary sexual characteristics develop when a person reaches puberty. For example, males often start to grow facial hair during puberty. This is an example of a secondary sexual characteristic.

The main hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla are adrenaline, sometimes called epinephrine, and noradrenaline, sometimes called norepinephrine. These hormones are released when the adrenal medulla are stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for initiating the fight-or-flight response during dangerous or stressful situations. For example, adrenaline and noradrenaline can increase the rate and force of your heartbeat when you’re about to run a race. These hormones can also increase the rate at which your liver converts glycogen into glucose, increasing your blood glucose concentration. This can also increase the rate at which your muscle cells use glucose and cellular respiration to release the energy required to escape or fight through these stressful situations.

Let’s review our answer options to see which is correct. We know that the mineral and water balance in the blood is maintained by mineralocorticoids. Therefore, this is not a function of adrenaline and noradrenaline. We also know that carbohydrate metabolism is a function of glucocorticoids, so this cannot be our answer either. The development of sexual organs and characteristics is controlled by androgens and the sex hormones that they are converted into. So this is also not a function of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Therefore, we can conclude that the main function of adrenaline and noradrenaline is to respond to signals from the sympathetic nervous system and induce the fight-or-flight response.

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