Mnemonic for hormones

A collection of mnemonics for anterior and posterior pituitary hormones, hypothalamic hormones, sex steroids, and other adrenal hormones. Simplified memory aid for steroid hormone synthesis. 

Anterior and Posterior Pituitary hormones mnemonic

FLAT-PEG is a helpful mnemonic for recalling the hormones released by the anterior pituitary gland. By breaking this mnemonic into two parts, tropic hormones (hormones that act on other endocrine glands to exert their effects) and direct hormones (bind directly to their target tissues to exert their effects). F (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), L (Luteinizing hormone), A (Adrenocorticotropic hormone), and T (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). The direct hormones include P (Prolactin), E (Endorphins), and G (Growth Hormone)

Anti-OXidant is a memory aid for recalling the hormones released by the posterior pituitary gland. Anti (anti-diuretic hormone, ADH) and OX (Oxytocin). These are also direct hormones that are derived from higher hypothalamic centers. They originate from neuronal cell bodies in the hypothalamus and traverse long axons to reach the posterior pituitary gland (neurohypophysis). The posterior pituitary is also known as the neurohypophysis suggesting its neural origins.

Anterior and Posterior Pituitary hormones mnemonic

Hypothalamus hormones mnemonic

The hypothalamus is the ultimate center for tropic hormones. The anterior pituitary tropic hormones have their corresponding tropic hormones from the hypothalamus (usually designated by the term “releasing hormone”).

  • Remember FLAT hormones from the anterior pituitary gland. FSH and LH target the gonads and are referred to as gonadotropins (tropic hormones that target the gonads). Their corresponding releasing hormone from the hypothalamus is called GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone).
  • ACTH (is also known as corticotropin). Corticotropin is a tropic hormone that targets the adrenal cortex. The corresponding releasing hormone from the hypothalamus is CRH (Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone).
  • TSH (is also known as thyrotropin). Thyrotropin is a tropic hormone that targets the thyroid gland. The corresponding releasing hormone from the hypothalamus is TRH (Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone)

Adrenal hormones mnemonic

The anatomic origin of hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex can be remembered by the memory aid, GFR and the phrase “the deeper you go, the sweeter it becomes,” i.e., salt, sugar, and sex. This corresponds to the transition from outer to deeper zones of the adrenal cortex.

Anatomic zones of the cortexMemory aidHormone(s)
Glomerulosa (superficial cortical zone)Salt (mineralocorticoids)Aldosterone
Fasciculata (mid-cortical zone)Sugar (glucocorticoids)Cortisol
Reticularis (deepest cortical zone)Sex (androgens i.e., sex steroids)Dehydroepiandrosterone, androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone and testosterone

Steroid hormone synthesis mnemonic

Adrenal enzyme deficiencies and their corresponding effects are frequently tested in board exams (USMLE and ABIM). This is a simple memory aid for remembering all the critical steps in the adrenal steroid hormone synthesis pathway. I have used this approach to simplify this daunting pathway for medical students and endocrinology fellows.

  1. Remember that all adrenal steroids are synthesized from cholesterol (The StAR of the show).
  2. Start with this memory aid — Pregnancy requires Progesterone before the DOCtor delivers ALDOsterone in 3, 2, 1… Write all of the critical steroids and hydroxylases (enzymes) required for mineralocorticoid synthesis in the left column.

The first part of this memory aid refers to the major steroids in the first layer of the adrenal cortex (zona glomerulosa) required for mineralocorticoid synthesis.

Pregnancy = Pregnenolone

Progesterone = Progesterone

DOC = 11-deoxycorticosterone (11-DOC)

ALDO = Aldosterone

3 = 3-Beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (between Pregnenolone and Progesterone)

2 = 21 hydroxylase (between progesterone and 11-DOC)

1 = 11-Beta hydroxylase between 11-DOC and Aldosterone)

The second layer of the adrenal cortex i.e., zona fasciculata, is responsible for the formation of 17 hydroxy steroids. Just change Pregnenolone to 17 hydroxypregnenolone, Progesterone to 17 hydroxyprogesterone, and 11-DOC to 11-Deoxycortisol to arrive at the sequential intermediate steroids required to form cortisol.

The same set of hydroxylases will convert these steroids sequentially in the zona fasciculata.

3 = 3-Beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (between 17 hydroxy Pregnenolone and 17 hydroxy Progesterone)

2 = 21 hydroxylase (between 17 hydroxy Progesterone and 11-Deoxycortisol)

1 = 11-Beta hydroxylase (between 11-Deoxycortisol and Cortisol)

The third and final layer of the adrenal cortex, i.e., zona reticularis, is responsible for the formation of 17 ketosteroids. These are the sex steroids. A simple memory aid is that “SEX may occur after a DATE”. DATE refers to the sequential steroids in this final pathway…D (Dehydroepiandrosterone), A (Androstenedione), T (Testosterone), and E (Estradiol)

References

Slominski, R.M., Tuckey, R.C., Manna, P.R. et al. Extra-adrenal glucocorticoid biosynthesis: implications for autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. Genes Immun 21, 150–168 (2020).

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