Like other proteins, peptide hormones are synthesized in cells from amino acids according to mRNA transcripts, which are synthesized from DNA templates inside the cell nucleus. Preprohormones, peptide hormone precursors, are then processed in several stages, typically in the endoplasmic reticulum, including removal of the N-terminal signal sequence and sometimes glycosylation, resulting in prohormones. The prohormones are then packaged into membrane-bound secretory vesicles, which can be secreted from the cell by exocytosis in response to specific stimuli (e.g. --an increase in Ca2+ and cAMP concentration in cytoplasm).
These prohormones often contain superfluous amino acid residues that were needed to direct folding of the hormone molecule into its active configuration but have no function once the hormone folds. Specific endopeptidases in the cell cleave the prohormone just before it is released into the bloodstream, generating the mature hormone form of the molecule. Mature peptide hormones then travel through the blood to all of the cells of the body, where they interact with specific receptors on the surfaces of their target cells.
Some neurotransmitters are secreted and released in a similar fashion to peptide hormones, and some 'neuropeptides' may be used as neurotransmitters in the nervous system in addition to acting as hormones when released into the blood.
Some peptide/protein hormones (angiotensin II, basic fibroblast growth factor-2, parathyroid hormone-related protein) also interact with intracellular receptors located in the cytoplasm or nucleus by an intracrine mechanism.
Notable peptide hormones
Several important peptide hormones are secreted from the pituitary gland. The anterior pituitary secretes three: prolactin, which acts on the mammary gland; adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which acts on the adrenal cortex to regulate the secretion of glucocorticoids; and growth hormone, which acts on bone, muscle, and the liver. The posterior pituitary gland secretes antidiuretic hormone, also called vasopressin, and oxytocin. Peptide hormones are produced by many different organs and tissues, however, including the heart (atrial-natriuretic peptide (ANP) or atrial natriuretic factor (ANF)) and pancreas (glucagon, insulin and somatostatin), the gastrointestinal tract (cholecystokinin, gastrin), and adipose tissue stores (leptin).
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- Peptide Hormone Secretion: A Practical Approach, J. C. Hutton, Hull University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19-963068-2.
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- The Endocrine System in Sports and Exercise, William J. Kraemer, Alan D. Rogol, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1-4051-3017-2.
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