Medicine & USMLE


Endocrine & Hormones
  1. Leptin
  2. Ghrelin
  3. Protein Hormones
  4. Steroid Hormones
  5. Insulin
  6. Diabetes
  7. Glucagon
  8. Epinephrine
  9. Cortisol
  10. Thyroid Hormones
  11. Calcitonin
  12. Parathyroid Hormone (PTH)
  13. Anterior Pituitary
  14. Prolactin
  15. Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
  16. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
  17. Growth Hormone (GH)
  18. Posterior Pituitary


Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex. Cortisol is produced when we are stressed, as part of the body’s stress response. The first step in the pathway to produce cortisol is the release of CRH by the hypothalamus. CRH then stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to release ACTH. Finally, ACTH acts on the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. Cortisol is the effector hormone of the stress response and mainly acts to stimulate gluconeogenesis by the liver. It also mobilizes energy in the body by breaking down protein and fat from other cells.

Key Points

  • Cortisol
    • Origin: Adrenal Cortex
    • Trigger: Stress
    • Pathway:
      • CRH from hypothalamus
      • ACTH from anterior pituitary
      • Cortisol (effector hormone)
    • Type: Glucocorticoid
    • Target: Whole Body
    • Effect:
      • Stimulates protein degradation in nonhepatic (non-liver) cells
      • Stimulates gluconeogenesis in liver
        • Increases blood glucose levels
      • Mobilizes fatty acids from fat cells