Search databaseBooksAll DatabasesAssemblyBiocollectionsBioProjectBioSampleBioSystemsBooksClinVarConserved DomainsdbGaPdbVarGeneGenomeGEO DataSetsGEO ProfilesGTRHomoloGeneIdentical Protein Internet CatalogNucleotideOMIMPMCPopSetProteinProtein ClustersProtein Family ModelsPubChem BioAssayPubChem CompoundPubChem SubstancePubMedSNPSRAStructureTaxonomyToolKitToolKitAllToolKitBookgh Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

You are watching: Which best describes the exocrine glands?

StatPearls . Treasure Island also (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.



A gland is a practical unit of cells that works together to develop and release a product right into a duct or straight to the bloodstream. Two principal forms of glands exist: exocrine and endocrine. The crucial distinction in between the two types is that, whereas exocrine glands secrete substances into a ductal system to an epithelial surchallenge, endocrine glands secrete products straight right into the bloodstream <1>. Exocrine secretions develop in the acinus, a tiny cluster of cells at the origicountry of glandular ducts. Exocrine glands subclassify right into subtypes based on the technique of secretion, the compound developed, or the shape of the gland.

Issues of Concern

This post will certainly discuss:

Various cell kinds uncovered within the exocrine gland also, and also their functions
Embryologic breakthrough of exocrine glands
Organ systems impacted by exocrine physiology
Functions of exocrine glands
Related clinical testing
Pathophysiology of exocrine glands
Monumental clinical aspects


Exocrine glands are consisted of of an acinus and a duct with various cell kinds, respectively. These glands are found in many type of organs within the body and demonstrate a huge variety in the function of their secretions.  Because of this, a vast array of cell kinds exists in exocrine glands.

While the duct features primarily to move glandular secretions, the acinus is responsible for the manufacturing of glandular secretions, and also as such, reflects even more range in cellular complace. Common cell types within the acinus encompass serous, mucinous, or sebaceous.

Mucinous glands secrete mucus, a typical example being Brunner glands in the duodenum.
Sebaceous glands secrete sebum, an oily compound. Sebaceous glands are many prevalent in the confront, scalp, groin, and armpits. Cell types deserve to be differentiated histologically also.  Mucous cells frequently stain lighter than their serous counterparts once stained via hematoxylin and eosin.

As ducts move from the acinus towards the final tarobtain, secretions initially enter the intralobular duct. Intralobular ducts have actually a basic cuboidal epithelium typically surrounded by parenchyma. Intralobular ducts drainpipe into interlobular ducts, which are a simple columnar epithelium. The final ductal unit is the interlobar duct known by a stvalidated columnar epithelium. Connective tconcern surrounds both interlobular and interlobar ducts.


The initial manifestation of exocrine gland formation is epithelial budding resulting from a complex interactivity between mesenchymal and also epithelial cell populations <3>. This initial period of indevelopment is affected by fibroblast growth components, most notably FGF10 and also cadherin-2 <4>. Other transcription components that have been presented to add to epithelial budding include HlxB9, Isl1, LEF-1, Msx1/2, Pbx1, Pdx1, and Tbx3 <5>.

Following the initial formation of the epithelial bud, ductal elongation occurs. This procedure undergoes mediation by a large group of molecular signals such as Netrin-1, TIMP1, amphiregulin, IGF1, and also leukemia inhibitory factor <5>. Several matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) contribute assistance via basement membrane renewal and facilitate ductal elongation <6><7>. After an initial duration of ductal elongation, the exocrine gland starts to develop ductal branches. NF-kappa-B is thneed to play a role <8>, and sonic hedgehog and Wnts <3>. As the duct begins to elongate, the acinus undergoes a duration of cell proliferation and differentiation. Due to the large variety in exocrine gland attribute, the exact number of cellular signals and also interactions is enormous. In general, but, a large duty exists for cell adhesion molecules such as laminin and also cadherins <9>.

Exocrine morphogenesis is a fast process. Ductal elongation and also branching generally take place in much less than a week, via acini development emerging 5 to 9 days later <10><11>. In a reasonably brief developmental duration, exocrine glands form and also can begin secreting a useful product.

Organ Systems Involved

Due to the diverse number and also function of epithelial surdeals with in the body, many kind of body organ devices utilize exocrine glands to bring out their corresponding actions. Several examples will certainly be consisted of here, including skin, mouth, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, and also breasts. 


The skin has a selection of exocrine glands, consisting of the eccrine sweat glands and also sebaceous glands. Eccrine sweat glands are the the majority of widespread sweat gland also in the body and are current on practically eincredibly external body surconfront. The sweat developed is clear with bit to no oil, in comparison to sebaceous glands, additionally found on the skin, which secretes the more oily substance sebum.  

Salivary Glands

The salivary glands in the mouth are one more instance of exocrine glands and also include the parotid glands, submandibular glands, and sublingual glands. While each gland has a distinct mixture of serous and also mucous cells, together, the salidiffer glands act to begin the procedure of food digestion while also lubricating and also protecting the mucosal surdeals with.


The stomach holds multiple forms of exocrine glands that include pyloric glands, cardiac glands, and fundic glands. These glands incorporate many type of different cell forms, consisting of parietal cells, chief cells, and also G cells. Together they control the gastric pH, release enzymes to breakdvery own food products to a digestible develop, and also assist through the absorption of important vitamins and also minerals.  


The pancreas has both an endocrine and an exocrine attribute. The exocrine pancreas assists in food digestion by releasing a secretion well-off in bicarbonate, which helps to neutralize the acidic atmosphere produced in the stomach. The secretion additionally includes digestive enzymes.


Brunner glands are existing in the duodenum of the tiny intestine. These exocrine glands are submucosal and also create a mucous product that protects the duodenum from acid released from the stomach. The alkaline nature of the secretion also activates intestinal enzymes to assist with food breakdvery own and also absorption.


The mammary gland also is just one of the most well-known examples of an exocrine gland also found in the breastern. Mammary glands create milk wealthy in nutrients that additionally gives passive immunity to a baby’s immune mechanism.


The certain function of exocrine glands within the body varies by area and organ mechanism. However before, the main role is to develop a secretion which ultimately gets released with a ductal mechanism onto an epithelial surface. Instances incorporate secretions that help in food digestion, mucosal protection, thermoregulation, lubrication, and also nutrition.


The 3 mechanisms through which exocrine glands release their secretions incorporate merocrine, apocrine, and also holocrine.

Merocrine glands are the the majority of common subkind. By interpretation, merocrine gland secretions leave the cell via exocytosis. In this approach of secretion, tright here is no cell damages. An instance of merocrine secretion is the eccrine sweat gland. 
Apocrine glands, in contrast, develop buds of the membrane which break off into the duct, losing component of the cellular membrane in the process. A renowned apocrine gland also is the breastmilk-developing mammary gland. 
The final subtype of excretion is holocrine, in which the cellular membrane ruptures to release its product right into the duct. Sebaceous glands are a depiction of holocrine secretion.

Related Testing

In general, trial and error for an individual exocrine gland also feature is not perdeveloped. However before, dysattribute of exocrine glands have the right to create a vast variety of clinical manifestations.

Imaging might be perdeveloped to confirm a diagnosis of blocked glands. Sialolithiasis describes instances where a stone becomes lodged within the salidiffer gland or duct, and also sialoadenitis describes inflammation of the gland. CT and also ultrasound are effective methods of identifying and also localizing stones <12>.

The liver itself acts as an exocrine gland also when developing and excreting bile to be stored in the gallbladder, awaiting expulsion and release through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum. Obstruction, at any type of point in this pathmethod, deserve to reason cholecystitis due to inflammation and dysfeature of the gallbladder. Ultrasound is the initial diagnostic test to diagnose cholecystitis <13>.

In cystic fibrosis, sodium and chloride are not reabsorbed within the sweat duct as a result of a dysfunctional CFTR protein, bring about abgenerally salty skin. The sweat chloride test is the main test for the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis <14>.

Pancreatic insufficiency occurs as soon as the exocrine glands of the pancreas are no longer able to develop the digestive enzymes vital for food breakdown in the little intestine. Usual etiologies include chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and hereditary hemochromatosis. Several methods deserve to be provided to evaluate the attribute of the exocrine pancreas. Fat malabsorption have the right to lead to deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Therefore, vitamin levels can be used to estimate pancreatic function <15>. Fecal elastase-1 testing is one more strategy with fairly high specificity and sensitivity. Low levels of fecal elastase-1 show a poorly functioning exocrine pancreas <16>. The a lot of sensitive diagnostic strategy for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, but, is using direct pancreatic function tests such as the cholecystokinin (CCK) or secretin stimulation test <17>.


Sjogren Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is commonly connected via rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. The syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that demonstrates reduced lacrimal and also salivary gland also attribute that can also have linked systemic symptoms <18><19>. The disease is characterized by eye and also mouth dryness as a result of the gland also dysfeature.  Due to mouth dryness, patients through Sjogren syndrome present increased rates of oral candidiasis and also dental caries <18><20>. 

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an autosomal recessive illness that causes impaired chloride transport as a result of a mutation of the CFTR protein.  Because CFTR is associated in the production of sweat, mucus, and digestive fluids, the mutation reasons a straight result on exocrine gland secretions.  Indeed, roughly 90% of infants born through cystic fibrosis will certainly build pancreatic insufficiency by one year of age <21>.

Acne vulgaris

The pervasiveness of acne is an approximated 35 to 90% in adolescents <22>. The disorder affects the pilosebaceous unit, of which sebaceous glands are an example. The pathogenesis is multifactorial and also regularly entails hyperkeratinization of the follicle, raised sebum manufacturing, and also proliferation of Propionibacterium acnes via associated inflammation. As sebum accumulates, an open up comecarry out forms, also recognized as a white head. Hyperkeratinization and also enhanced sebum manufacturing result in clogging of the pores of the pilosebaceous unit. As the lipids within sebum oxidize, the follicular orifice opens up, developing an open up comecarry out, or blackhead.

Treatment for acne greatly depends on the severity of inflammatory symptoms, but topical retinoids are commonly the first-line treatment, although antimicrobial agents are a second option for refractory cases <23>. For serious situations of nodulocystic acne or for patients that have actually failed treatment through systemic antibiotics, oral isotretinoin the therapeutic choice <24>.

See more: How Does A Hot Glue Gun Work ? How Industrial Glue Guns Are Used

Clinical Significance

The exocrine gland deserve to be found in many kind of organs and serves a broad selection of functions within the body. Due to this truth, an knowledge of the physiology of exocrine glands is necessary for healthtreatment workers. Exocrine glands play an essential duty in the physiology of many kind of organ systems from the skin to the pancreas, providing the body via an approach to release secretions containing proteins, mucus, and also various other assets to epithelial surencounters approximately the body. Owing to their varied and also crucial duties, the dysfunction of exocrine glands is connected with conditions as wide-ranging as acne vulgaris to Sjogren syndrome.

Murphrey MB, Safadi AO, Vaidya T. StatPearls . StatPearls Publishing; Treasure Island (FL): Aug 10, 2020. Histology, Apocrine Gland.
Holmberg KV, Hoffmale MP. Anatomy, biogenesis and also renewal of salivary glands. Monogr Oral Sci. 2014;24:1-13.
Govindarajan V, Ito M, Makarenkova HP, Lang RA, Overbeek PA. Endogenous and also ectopic gland induction by FGF-10. Dev Biol. 2000 Sep 01;225(1):188-200.
Wang J, Laurie GW. Organogenesis of the exocrine gland also. Dev Biol. 2004 Sep 01;273(1):1-22.
Witty JP, Wappropriate JH, Matrisian LM. Matrix metalloproteinases are expressed throughout ductal and also alveolar mammary morphogenesis, and misregulation of stromelysin-1 in transgenic mice induces unreserved alveolar breakthrough. Mol Biol Cell. 1995 Oct;6(10):1287-303.
Sympson CJ, Talhouk RS, Alexander CM, Chin JR, Clift SM, Bisoffer MJ, Werb Z. Targeted expression of stromelysin-1 in mammary gland offers evidence for a function of proteinases in branching morphogenesis and also the requirement for an intact basement membrane for tissue-specific gene expression. J Cell Biol. 1994 May;125(3):681-93.
Brantley DM, Chen CL, Muraoka RS, Bushdid PB, Bradberry JL, Kittrell F, Medina D, Matrisian LM, Kerr LD, Yull FE. Nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) regulates proliferation and branching in computer mouse mammary epithelium. Mol Biol Cell. 2001 May;12(5):1445-55.
Yurchenco PD, Amenta PS, Patton BL. Basement membrane assembly, stability and activities oboffered with a developpsychological lens. Matrix Biol. 2004 Jan;22(7):521-38.
Wessells NK, Evans J. Ultrastructural research studies of early morphogenesis and also cytodifferentiation in the embryonic mammalian pancreas. Dev Biol. 1968 Apr;17(4):413-46.
Wolff MS, Mirels L, Lagner J, Hand also AR. Growth of the rat sublingual gland: a light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical study. Anat Rec. 2002 Jan 01;266(1):30-42.
Thomas WW, Douglas JE, Rassekh CH. Accuracy of Ultrasonography and Computed Tomography in the Evaluation of Patients Undergoing Sialendoscopy for Sialolithiasis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 May;156(5):834-839.
Shea JA, Berlin JA, Escarce JJ, Clarke JR, Kinosian BP, Cabana MD, Tsai WW, Horangic N, Malet PF, Schwartz JS. Revised approximates of diagnostic test sensitivity and also specificity in suspected biliary tract disease. Arch Intern Med. 1994 Nov 28;154(22):2573-81.
Denning CR, Huang NN, Cuasay LR, Shwachguy H, Tocci P, Warwick WJ, Gibboy LE. Cooperative research comparing 3 techniques of percreating sweat tests to diagnose cystic fibrosis. Pediatrics. 1980 Nov;66(5):752-7.
Dutta SK, Bustin MP, Rusmarket RM, Costa BS. Deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins in treated patients with pancreatic insufficiency. Ann Intern Med. 1982 Oct;97(4):549-52.
Domínguez-Muñoz JE, Hieronymus C, Sauerbruch T, Malfertheiner P. Fecal elastase test: review of a brand-new noninvasive pancreatic attribute test. Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 Oct;90(10):1834-7.
Heij HA, Oberheight H, Schmitz PI, van Blankenstein M, Westbroek DL. Evaluation of the secretin-cholecystokinin test for chronic pancreatitis by discriminant analysis. Scand also J Gastroenterol. 1986 Jan;21(1):35-40.
Wu AJ. The oral component of Sjögren"s syndrome: pass the scalpel and also check the water. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2003 Aug;5(4):304-10.
Asmussen K, Andersen V, Bendixen G, Schiødt M, Oxholm P. A new version for classification of disease manifestations in primary Sjögren"s syndrome: testimonial in a retrospective irreversible research. J Intern Med. 1996 Jun;239(6):475-82.
Soto-Rojas AE, Villa AR, Sifuentes-Osornio J, Alarcón-Segousing D, Kraus A. Oral candidiasis and also Sjögren"s syndrome. J Rheumatol. 1998 May;25(5):911-5.
Bronstein MN, Sokol RJ, Abguy SH, Chatfield BA, Hammond KB, Hambidge KM, Stall CD, Accurso FJ. Pancreatic insufficiency, development, and nutrition in infants identified by newborn screening as having actually cystic fibrosis. J Pediatr. 1992 Apr;120(4 Pt 1):533-40.
Stathakis V, Kilkenny M, Marks R. Descriptive public health of acne vulgaris in the neighborhood. Australas J Dermatol. 1997 Aug;38(3):115-23.
Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, Berchild DS, Bowe WP, Graber EM, Harper JC, Kang S, Keri JE, Leyden JJ, Reynolds RV, Silverberg NB, Stein Gold LF, Tollefkid MM, Weiss JS, Dolan NC, Sagan AA, Stern M, Boyer KM, Bhushan R. Guidelines of treatment for the administration of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016 May;74(5):945-73.e33.
Liu A, Yang DJ, Gerhardstein PC, Hsu S. Relapse of acne adhering to isotretinoin treatment: a retrospective study of 405 patients. J Drugs Dermatol. 2008 Oct;7(10):963-6.