<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the location and structure of the parathyroid glands
  • Describe the hormonal control of blood calcium levels
  • Discuss the physiological response of parathyroid dysfunction

The parathyroid glands    are tiny, round structures usually found embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland ( [link] ). A thick connective tissue capsule separates the glands from the thyroid tissue. Most people have four parathyroid glands, but occasionally there are more in tissues of the neck or chest. The function of one type of parathyroid cells, the oxyphil cells, is not clear. The primary functional cells of the parathyroid glands are the chief cells. These epithelial cells produce and secrete the parathyroid hormone (PTH)    , the major hormone involved in the regulation of blood calcium levels.

Parathyroid glands

Part A of this diagram shows the four, small, disc-shaped parathyroid glands embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland. Part B shows a micrograph of parathyroid tissue. The tissue is largely composed of cube-shaped chief cells encircling a central blood vessel. A few larger and darker-staining oxyphil cells are embedded within the many chief cells.
The small parathyroid glands are embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland. LM × 760. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

View the University of Michigan WebScope at (External Link) to explore the tissue sample in greater detail.

The parathyroid glands produce and secrete PTH, a peptide hormone, in response to low blood calcium levels ( [link] ). PTH secretion causes the release of calcium from the bones by stimulating osteoclasts, which secrete enzymes that degrade bone and release calcium into the interstitial fluid. PTH also inhibits osteoblasts, the cells involved in bone deposition, thereby sparing blood calcium. PTH causes increased reabsorption of calcium (and magnesium) in the kidney tubules from the urine filtrate. In addition, PTH initiates the production of the steroid hormone calcitriol (also known as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D), which is the active form of vitamin D 3 , in the kidneys. Calcitriol then stimulates increased absorption of dietary calcium by the intestines. A negative feedback loop regulates the levels of PTH, with rising blood calcium levels inhibiting further release of PTH.

Parathyroid hormone in maintaining blood calcium homeostasis

This diagram shows the role of parathyroid hormone in maintaining blood calcium homeostasis. When blood calcium concentration drops, chief cells of the parathyroid gland release parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH affects bone, the kidneys and the intestines. In regards to bone, PTH inhibits osteoblasts and stimulates osteoclasts. This results in compact bone being broken down, as illustrated by an osteoclast burrowing into the surface of a bone. The break down releases calcium ions into a nearby blood vessel. The osteoblasts are inactive in this stage. In regards to the kidneys, PTH stimulates kidney tubule cells to recover waste calcium from the urine. PTH also stimulates kidney tubule cells to release calcitrol. This is illustrated with a cross section of a kidney tubule, showing the cells of the tubule wall. Urine is running to the left of the tubule wall cells while an artery is to the right. The right edge of the tubule wall cells and the left edge of the artery are separated by a small region of interstitial space. The cells are removing calcium from the urine and pumping it into the interstitial fluid, after which the calcium enters the artery. The cells are also pumping calcitrol into the blood vessel. In regards to the intestine, PTH stimulates the intestines to absorb calcium from digesting food. A cross section of an intestinal cell is shown, which is cube-shaped but with finger-like projections on the intestinal lumen side (top). Beneath the intestinal cell is an artery. Calcitrol is leaving the artery and entering the intestinal cell, stimulating it to absorb calcium from food in the intestinal lumen. The effects of PTH on bone, the kidneys and the intestines all cause blood calcium levels to increase. High calcium concentrations in the blood stimulate the parafollicular cells in the thyroid to release calcitonin. Calcitonin reverses the effects of PTH by stimulating osteoblasts and inhibiting osteoclasts in bone tissue. This is illustrated by calcium ions leaving a blood vessel and traveling to osteoblasts on a section of compact bone. The osteoblasts are thickening the compact bone layer while, in this stage, the osteoclasts are inactive.
Parathyroid hormone increases blood calcium levels when they drop too low. Conversely, calcitonin, which is released from the thyroid gland, decreases blood calcium levels when they become too high. These two mechanisms constantly maintain blood calcium concentration at homeostasis.

Abnormally high activity of the parathyroid gland can cause hyperparathyroidism    , a disorder caused by an overproduction of PTH that results in excessive calcium reabsorption from bone. Hyperparathyroidism can significantly decrease bone density, leading to spontaneous fractures or deformities. As blood calcium levels rise, cell membrane permeability to sodium is decreased, and the responsiveness of the nervous system is reduced. At the same time, calcium deposits may collect in the body’s tissues and organs, impairing their functioning.

In contrast, abnormally low blood calcium levels may be caused by parathyroid hormone deficiency, called hypoparathyroidism    , which may develop following injury or surgery involving the thyroid gland. Low blood calcium increases membrane permeability to sodium, resulting in muscle twitching, cramping, spasms, or convulsions. Severe deficits can paralyze muscles, including those involved in breathing, and can be fatal.

When blood calcium levels are high, calcitonin is produced and secreted by the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland. As discussed earlier, calcitonin inhibits the activity of osteoclasts, reduces the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestine, and signals the kidneys to reabsorb less calcium, resulting in larger amounts of calcium excreted in the urine.

Chapter review

Calcium is required for a variety of important physiologic processes, including neuromuscular functioning; thus, blood calcium levels are closely regulated. The parathyroid glands are small structures located on the posterior thyroid gland that produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates blood calcium levels. Low blood calcium levels cause the production and secretion of PTH. In contrast, elevated blood calcium levels inhibit secretion of PTH and trigger secretion of the thyroid hormone calcitonin. Underproduction of PTH can result in hypoparathyroidism. In contrast, overproduction of PTH can result in hyperparathyroidism.

Questions & Answers

Its a fusion of bones where the bones becomes flexible or stiff.. Its a kind of arthritis
rumana Reply
what is ankylosis
Adam Reply
master gland Kon si h
kajal Reply
Pituitary gland
KUNDAN
pituitary gland because it give harmonies and control other gland
ABDULLAH
glands often secrete hormones which play an important role in maintaining homeostasis.
KUNDAN
pituitary gland
Aftab
pituitary gland is master gland because it present in biran and secrtehormones and play other gland of human body and function its gland so that also called master gland.
ABDULLAH
pituitary glandis the master gland of our body
Nadeem
how do you study for A&P? lab and lecture?
Aubrey Reply
depends how your lab exams and lecture exams are structured. but either way, you want to study two weeks before any of the exams. study in a way that you would be teaching it to someone. lec is mostly physio. and a lil' anatomy. lab is all anatomy and motion- so memorization is key.
Berlin
record the lectures in both cases. read the lessons for that class day. have questions. go to office hours. this will help you in A&P- if anything the teacher would give you a little bit of points for making so much of an effort
Berlin
When one is suffering from motion sickness what area of the brain may trigger emesis?
amy Reply
that is the sign of stroke. if the patient have a stroke. the left side of body is weakness, the affected right of cerebrum but if right side of the body is weakness surely in left side!
Larry
thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
helloo
Sentamu
Fatima hw a u
Sentamu
hii
Shubham
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
Sentamu
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
ILYAS Reply
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
Mike
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
Toni
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
Claire
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
Yakubu
thank you
Claire
welcome
Yakubu
Will u be malnourished?
Baigwa
gud
Budumari
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
gabriel
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
Larry
what is X-ray?
Nissar
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
KUNDAN
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
Mma
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
Konneh
how many bon of human being
Nura
206
John
how to study for the skeletal system
ryaisha
and anatomy
ryaisha
I really need sources immediately
ryaisha
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Toni
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
Toni
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
ryaisha
*what are
ryaisha
hiii
Roopa
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Toni
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
Toni
okay thanks
ryaisha
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
Sovilace
kissing
Obrian
for protection
Omar
Lips assist in speech and eating
Cindy
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
Inam
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Skeater

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask