The secretion of hypothalamic, pituitary, and target tissue hormones is under tight regulatory control by a series of feedback and feed- forward loops. This complexity can be demonstrated using the growth hormone (GH) regulatory system as an example. The stimulatory substance growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) and the inhibitory substance somatostatin (SS) both products of the hypothalamus, control pituitary GH secretion. Somatostatin is also called growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH). Under the influence of GHRH, growth hormone is released into the systemic circulation, causing the target tissue to secrete insulin-like growth factor-1, IGF-1. Growth hormone also has other more direct metabolic effects; it is both hyperglycemic and lipolytic. The principal source of systemic IGF-1 is the liver, although most other tissues secrete and contribute to systemic IGF-1. Liver IGF-1 is considered to be the principal regulator of tissue growth. In particular, the IGF-1 secreted by the liver is believed to synchronize growth throughout the body, resulting in a homeostatic balance of tissue size and mass. IGF-1 secreted by peripheral tissues is generally considered to be autocrine or paracrine in its biological action.
There are numerous classes of protein that span the membrane of cells, be it the plasma membrane or intracellular organellar membranes. The transmembrane proteins include the various ion channels, other types of channel proteins, transporter proteins, growth factor receptors, and cell adhesion molecules. All transmembrane proteins, regardless of function, are classified dependent upon their structure. There are four main classifications for transmembrane proteins, type I, II, III, and IV. Types I, II, and III are all characterized by passing through the membrane once, referred to as single-pass transmembrane proteins. Type IV transmembrane proteins pass through the membrane several times and, therefore, they are all referred to as multiple-pass transmembrane proteins. Type I transmembrane proteins are anchored to the membrane via a sequence of hydrophobic amino acids referred to as the stop-transfer sequence and this class all have the C-terminus of the protein inside the cell and the N-terminus outside. A typical example of a type I transmembrane protein is the LDL receptor . Type II transmembrane proteins are anchored to the membrane via a signal-anchor sequence and have the C-terminus outside the cell and the N-terminus inside. An example of a type II transmembrane protein is the transferrin receptor . Type III transmembrane proteins do not have a signal sequence and the N-terminus of the protein is outside the cell. An example of a type III transmembrane protein would be any member of the cytochrome P450 family of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes found in the liver. Type IV transmembrane proteins are typified by the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily of receptor proteins that span the membrane seven times. This class of receptor is often referred to as the serpentine receptor family because of the multiple membrane spans. Another example of a type IV transmembrane protein is the α-subunit of a typical Na + ,K + -ATPase (see below). Type IV transmembrane proteins are divided into type IV-A and type IV-B where the IV-A members have the N-terminus inside the cell and the C-terminus outside and the IV-B members are oriented in the opposite direction. The Na + ,K + -ATPase α-subunit proteins are type IV-A multi-pass transmembrane proteins, whereas, all GPCRs are members of the type IV-B family.