What Are Also Known As Local Hormones

Local hormones, also known as autacoids or autocrine/paracrine substances, are chemical messengers that act locally within the body. Unlike hormones that travel in the bloodstream to target distant organs, local hormones exert their effects in close proximity to the cells that produce them. These substances play a vital role in various physiological processes and are crucial for maintaining homeostasis in the body.

Local hormones can be classified into different categories based on their chemical nature and mode of action. Let’s explore some of the key types of local hormones and how they function:


Eicosanoids are a group of oxygenated fatty acid derivatives that include prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. These substances are synthesized from arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid found in cell membranes. Eicosanoids are involved in a wide range of functions, such as inflammation, blood clotting, regulation of blood pressure, and immune response. They act by binding to specific receptors on nearby cells and initiating various cellular responses.


Cytokines are small proteins produced by immune cells, as well as other cell types, to regulate immune responses and cellular communication. They play a crucial role in inflammation, the body’s defense against infections, and various pathological conditions. There are different types of cytokines, including interleukins, tumor necrosis factors, and interferons, each with a specific role in modulating the immune system.

Growth Factors

Growth factors are signaling molecules that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. They play a critical role in development, tissue repair, and maintenance of normal physiological functions. Growth factors can be classified into various families, such as the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family, fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family, and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) family. Each family of growth factors has specific functions and interacts with specific receptors on target cells.


Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells (neurons) and between neurons and other cells in the body. They play a crucial role in the functioning of the nervous system, including the regulation of mood, cognition, and muscle movement. Some examples of neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine. These substances are released from synaptic vesicles in response to an electrical signal and bind to receptors on the target cell, initiating a response.

Prohormones and Hormones

Prohormones are inactive precursors of hormones that are converted into active hormones by specific enzymes. These intermediates are typically synthesized within a particular tissue and act locally. Once converted into hormones, they may be released into the bloodstream and target distant organs. Examples of prohormones include thyroid hormones and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs). Local hormones belonging to this category function in both autocrine and endocrine manners, depending on their activation and release.

While local hormones primarily act in close proximity to the cells that produce them, they can also have systemic effects by influencing distant organs. For example, prostaglandins released during inflammation can induce fever and pain, affecting the entire body. Additionally, dysregulation of local hormone production or receptor signaling can contribute to various diseases, such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of local hormones?

Some examples of local hormones include prostaglandins, cytokines, growth factors, neurotransmitters, and prohormones. Each of these substances has specific functions and plays a crucial role in various physiological processes.

How do local hormones differ from traditional hormones?

Traditional hormones travel through the bloodstream to target distant organs, while local hormones act locally and have a more localized effect. Local hormones are produced by cells in close proximity to the target cells and exert their effects in the immediate vicinity.

What is the significance of local hormones?

Local hormones are essential for maintaining homeostasis in the body and regulating various physiological processes. They play a crucial role in immune responses, inflammation, tissue repair, cell proliferation, and cell communication.

Can local hormone dysregulation lead to disease?

Yes, dysregulation of local hormone production or receptor signaling can contribute to various diseases. For example, excessive inflammation due to imbalanced prostaglandin production can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions. Similarly, abnormal growth factor signaling can contribute to uncontrolled cell growth and the development of cancer.

Final Thoughts

Local hormones, also known as autacoids or autocrine/paracrine substances, are essential for maintaining homeostasis and regulating various physiological processes in the body. From eicosanoids to growth factors, neurotransmitters to cytokines, their diverse functions contribute to overall health and well-being. Understanding the important role played by local hormones can shed light on the complex mechanisms underlying various diseases and pave the way for the development of targeted therapeutic interventions. So next time you hear the term “local hormones,” remember their significance in the intricate web of cellular communication and regulation.

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