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You are watching: Connective tissue forms both endocrine and exocrine glands

StatPearls . Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.



A gland is a useful unit the cells that works together to create and release a product right into a duct or directly to the bloodstream. Two principal types of glands exist: exocrine and also endocrine. The vital difference between the two species is that, vice versa, exocrine glands secrete substances into a ductal system to an epithelial surface, endocrine glands secrete assets directly into the bloodstream <1>. Exocrine secretions kind in the acinus, a little cluster of cell at the origination the glandular ducts. Exocrine glands subclassify into subtypes based upon the method of secretion, the compound produced, or the shape of the gland.

Issues that Concern

This post will discuss:

Various cell varieties found in ~ the exocrine gland, and also their functions
Embryologic advancement of exocrine glands
Organ systems influenced by exocrine physiology
Functions of exocrine glands
Related clinical testing
Pathophysiology that exocrine glands
Significant clinical aspects


Exocrine glands are consisted of of one acinus and a duct with various cell types, respectively. These glands are discovered in numerous organs in ~ the body and demonstrate a huge variety in the function of your secretions.  together such, a wide variety of cell types exists in exocrine glands.

While the duct features primarily to move glandular secretions, the acinus is responsible for the manufacturing of glandular secretions, and also as such, shows an ext variety in moving composition. Usual cell types within the acinus encompass serous, mucinous, or sebaceous.

Mucinous glands secrete mucus, a usual example being Brunner glands in the duodenum.
Sebaceous glands secrete sebum, one oily compound. Sebaceous glands are many prevalent in the face, scalp, groin, and armpits. Cell types can be identified histologically together well.  Mucous cells commonly stain lighter 보다 their serous counterparts as soon as stained v hematoxylin and eosin.

As ducts move from the acinus toward the final target, secretions initially get in the intralobular duct. Intralobular ducts have a an easy cuboidal epithelium commonly surrounded by parenchyma. Intralobular ducts drainpipe into interlobular ducts, which space a straightforward columnar epithelium. The last ductal unit is the interlobar duct known by a stratified columnar epithelium. Connective tissue surrounds both interlobular and interlobar ducts.


The initial manifestation that exocrine gland formation is epithelial budding result from a complicated interaction between mesenchymal and epithelial cabinet populations <3>. This initial period of ingrowth is influenced by fibroblast growth factors, most notably FGF10 and also cadherin-2 <4>. Other transcription factors that have been presented to add to epithelial budding encompass HlxB9, Isl1, LEF-1, Msx1/2, Pbx1, Pdx1, and Tbx3 <5>.

Following the initial formation of the epithelial bud, ductal elongation occurs. This procedure undergoes mediation by a huge group that molecular signals such as Netrin-1, TIMP1, amphiregulin, IGF1, and leukemia inhibitory factor <5>. Numerous matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) contribute assistance v basement membrane renewal and also facilitate ductal elongation <6><7>. ~ an initial period of ductal elongation, the exocrine gland begins to type ductal branches. NF-kappa-B is thought to pat a role <8>, and sonic hedgehog and also Wnts <3>. As the duct begins to elongate, the acinus experience a period of cell proliferation and differentiation. Due to the huge variety in exocrine gland function, the exact variety of cellular signals and also interactions is immense. In general, however, a large role exists because that cell adhesion molecule such together laminin and also cadherins <9>.

Exocrine morphogenesis is a fast process. Ductal elongation and branching generally occur in much less than a week, through acini formation emerging 5 to 9 days later <10><11>. In a relatively short developmental period, exocrine glands kind and can begin secreting a functional product.

Organ solution Involved

Due to the diverse number and function of epithelial surface in the body, countless organ systems utilize exocrine glands to lug out their corresponding actions. Several examples will be included here, including skin, mouth, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, and breasts. 


The skin has actually a variety of exocrine glands, including the eccrine sweat glands and also sebaceous glands. Eccrine sweat glands room the many widespread sweat gland in the body and are existing on practically every exterior body surface. The sweat produced is clean with tiny to no oil, in comparison to sebaceous glands, also found on the skin, i m sorry secretes the an ext oily substance sebum.  

Salivary Glands

The salient glands in the mouth are an additional example that exocrine glands and include the parotid glands, submandibular glands, and also sublingual glands. While each gland has actually a unique mixture that serous and mucous cells, together, the salient glands act to begin the procedure of food digestion while also lubricating and protecting the mucosal surfaces.


The stomach holds multiple types of exocrine glands that encompass pyloric glands, cardiac glands, and also fundic glands. This glands incorporate numerous different cabinet types, consisting of parietal cells, cook cells, and G cells. With each other they control the gastric pH, relax enzymes to failure food products to a digestible form, and also assist with the absorption of vital vitamins and also minerals.  


The pancreas has both an endocrine and an exocrine function. The exocrine kidneys assists in food cradle by releasing a secretion well-off in bicarbonate, which help to neutralize the acidic environment created in the stomach. The secretion also includes digestive enzymes.


Brunner glands are current in the duodenum of the small intestine. These exocrine glands room submucosal and produce a mucous product the protects the duodenum from mountain released indigenous the stomach. The alkaline nature the the secretion additionally activates intestinal enzyme to help with food breakdown and absorption.


The mammary gland is among the most well-known examples of one exocrine gland uncovered in the breast. Mammary glands produce milk affluent in nutrients that also provides passive immune to a baby’s immune system.


The specific duty of exocrine glands within the human body varies through location and organ system. However, the primary duty is to produce a secretion which ultimately gets released v a ductal system onto an epithelial surface. Examples include secretions that assist in food digestion, mucosal protection, thermoregulation, lubrication, and also nutrition.


The three mechanisms whereby exocrine glands relax their secretions incorporate merocrine, apocrine, and also holocrine.

Merocrine glands are the most usual subtype. By definition, merocrine gland secretions exit the cabinet via exocytosis. In this technique of secretion, there is no cabinet damage. An instance of merocrine secretion is the eccrine sweat gland. 
Apocrine glands, in contrast, form buds of the membrane which rest off right into the duct, losing component of the to move membrane in the process. A renowned apocrine gland is the breastmilk-producing mammary gland. 
The last subtype that excretion is holocrine, in which the cellular membrane ruptures to relax its product right into the duct. Sebaceous glands space a depiction of holocrine secretion.

Related Testing

In general, trial and error for an individual exocrine gland function is not performed. However, dysfunction of exocrine glands can create a wide range of clinical manifestations.

Imaging might be perform to confirm a diagnosis of blocked glands. Sialolithiasis describes instances where a rock becomes lodged within the salivary gland or duct, and sialoadenitis refers to inflammation the the gland. CT and also ultrasound are effective methods of identifying and also localizing stones <12>.

The liver itself acts together an exocrine gland as soon as creating and excreting bile to it is in stored in the gallbladder, awaiting expulsion and also release v the pancreatic duct right into the duodenum. Obstruction, in ~ any suggest in this pathway, can cause cholecystitis as result of inflammation and dysfunction the the gallbladder. Ultrasound is the initial diagnostic check to diagnose cholecystitis <13>.

In cystic fibrosis, sodium and chloride room not reabsorbed in ~ the sweat duct due to a dysfunctional CFTR protein, resulting in abnormally braided skin. The sweat chloride test is the main test because that the diagnosis the cystic fibrosis <14>.

Pancreatic insufficiency occurs when the exocrine glands of the pancreas space no longer able to produce the cradle enzymes necessary for food malfunction in the small intestine. Usual etiologies incorporate chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and hereditary hemochromatosis. Several methods deserve to be supplied to evaluate the duty of the exocrine pancreas. Fat malabsorption have the right to lead to deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Thus, vitamin levels have the right to be supplied to calculation pancreatic function <15>. Fecal elastase-1 testing is another an approach with reasonably high specificity and sensitivity. Low levels of fecal elastase-1 show a poorly to work exocrine pancreas <16>. The most sensitive diagnostic technique for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, however, is utilizing direct pancreatic function tests such together the cholecystokinin (CCK) or secretin stimulation test <17>.


Sjogren Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is commonly connected with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. The syndrome is an autoimmune disorder the demonstrates diminished lacrimal and also salivary gland duty that can additionally have connected systemic symptoms <18><19>. The an illness is identified by eye and mouth dryness as result of the gland dysfunction.  because of mouth dryness, patients v Sjogren syndrome display increased prices of oral candidiasis and dental caries <18><20>. 

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an autosomal recessive disease that causes impaired chloride transport because of a mutation that the CFTR protein.  due to the fact that CFTR is affiliated in the production of sweat, mucus, and digestive fluids, the mutation reasons a direct effect ~ above exocrine gland secretions.  Indeed, roughly 90% of babies born v cystic fibrosis will develop pancreatic insufficiency by one year of age <21>.

Acne vulgaris

The ubiquity of acne is an estimated 35 to 90% in adolescents <22>. The disorder affects the pilosebaceous unit, of i m sorry sebaceous glands are an example. The pathogenesis is multifactorial and often entails hyperkeratinization that the follicle, increased sebum production, and also proliferation of Propionibacterium acnes with connected inflammation. As sebum accumulates, an open comedo forms, likewise known as a white head. Hyperkeratinization and also increased sebum production bring about clogging that the pores the the pilosebaceous unit. As the lipids within sebum oxidize, the follicular orifice opens, developing an open up comedo, or blackhead.

Treatment because that acne largely depends on the severity of inflammation symptoms, yet topical retinoids space usually the first-line treatment, back antimicrobial agents are secondary option because that refractory cases <23>. For severe cases of nodulocystic acne or because that patients who have actually failed treatment with systemic antibiotics, dental isotretinoin the therapeutic choice <24>.

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Clinical Significance

The exocrine gland can be found in many organs and serves a wide selection of functions within the body. Because of this fact, an expertise of the physiology the exocrine glands is crucial for medical care workers. Exocrine glands play a key role in the physiology of countless organ systems from the skin come the pancreas, providing the body v a method to release secretions comprise proteins, mucus, and other commodities to epithelial surfaces roughly the body. Owing to your varied and essential roles, the dysfunction of exocrine glands is connected with conditions as wide-ranging as acne vulgaris come Sjogren syndrome.

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