What are the gonads?

Gonads are the primary organs of the reproductive system. They are called testes in men and ovaries in women. They are endocrine glands that produce the sex hormones – oestrogen in women and testosterone in men.

Their main functions are sex phenotype determination, puberty, sexual function, reproduction and bone health. Like all other endocrine glands they receive commands from the hypothalamus, via the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). This signal is transmitted by the pituitary gland to the gonads via the gonadotropins (follicle stimulating/FSH and luteinizing/LH hormones) forming eventually, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.

The axis formed by the above endocrine glands coordinates all the endocrine activity of the reproductive system. Disorders of either the central part (hypothalamus-pituitary) or the peripheral part (testes, ovaries) lead to disturbances in the function of the gonads and the hormones they secrete.