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Anatomy Atlases: Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 1 - Cells Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 15 - Endocrine Glands

Plate 15.284 Pituitary Gland

Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D., Adel K. Afifi, M.D., Paul M. Heidger, Jr., Ph.D.
Peer Review Status: Externally Peer Reviewed

Posterior lobe Herring body

Plate 15.284 Pituitary Gland

Human, Susa, AFT, 220 x.


Herring* body: Herring bodies represent dilated terminal portions of neurosecretory axons constituting the hypothalamohypophyseal tract. They are always in close proximity to capillaries. Within the dilatations of various sizes are neurosecretory granules, which stain blue in this preparation. The Herring body granules consist of hormone precursors for either oxytocin or vasopressin, plus a binding protein for each hormone and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The neurosecretory material is synthesized in neurons located in the hypothalamus and transported down the axons of the hypothalamohypophyseal tract to reach the axon terminals (Herring bodies). Most of the vasopressin is thought to be synthesized in neurons located in the supraoptic nucleus and oxytocin in neurons of the paraventricular nucleus. Vasopressin (pitressin, 13-hypophamine) is an antidiuretic hormone and in pharmacologic doses causes smooth muscle to contract, particularly those in blood vessels. Oxytocin (pitocin, A-hypophamine) causes myometrial contractions at term and promotes milk release during lactation.

*Herring bodies also contain synaptic vesicles 40 to 60 nm in diameter that are similar in structure to those found in cholinergic synapses. Their function here is not known.  

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