Gonads—the ovaries in females and the testes in males—are gamete-producing organs that also produce a group of steroid sex hormones. Sex hormones regulate body changes that begin at puberty. Puberty (PYOO-buhr-tee) is the adolescent stage during which the sex organs mature and secondary sex characteristics, such as facial hair, appear. During puberty in males, sperm production begins, the voice deepens, the chest broadens, and hair grows on the body and face. In females, the menstrual cycle begins, the breasts grow, and the hips widen.

When secreted by the anterior pituitary, the hormones luteinizing (LOO-tee-in-IZE-ing) hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating (FOL-uh-kuhl STIM-yoo-LAYT-ing) hormone (FSH) stimulate secretion of sex hormones from the gonads. In females, LH and FSH stimulate secretion of estrogen (ES-truh-jen) and progesterone (proh-JES-tuh-ROHN) from the ovaries. In preparation for a possible pregnancy, these sex hormones cause the monthly release of an egg by an ovary and buildup of the uterine lining. Estrogen also regulates female secondary sex characteristics. In males, LH stimulates the testes to secrete a group of sex hormones called androgens (AN-druh-jenz). Testosterone (tes-TAHS-tuh-rohn) is an androgen that regulates male secondary sex characteristics. Along with FSH, testosterone also stimulates sperm production.


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