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Adrenal Zona Fasciculata

Discover the fascinating role of the adrenal zona fasciculata and how it influences our body, health, and well-being.

USMLE Guide: Adrenal Zona Fasciculata


The adrenal gland is an important endocrine organ located on top of each kidney. It consists of two main components: the outer cortex and the inner medulla. The adrenal cortex is further divided into three zones: zona glomerulosa, zona fasciculata, and zona reticularis. This guide will focus specifically on the adrenal zona fasciculata, highlighting its anatomy, function, and clinical significance.


The adrenal zona fasciculata is the middle layer of the adrenal cortex, situated between the zona glomerulosa and zona reticularis. It constitutes approximately 75% of the adrenal cortex. The cells in this layer are arranged in long cords or columns, giving it the name "fasciculata," which means "bundles" in Latin.


The primary function of the adrenal zona fasciculata is to produce and secrete glucocorticoids, mainly cortisol. Glucocorticoids play a crucial role in regulating metabolism, immune response, and stress response. Cortisol acts on various tissues in the body to increase blood glucose levels, suppress inflammation, and modulate the immune system.


The secretion of glucocorticoids from the adrenal zona fasciculata is tightly regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then acts on the adrenal cortex, specifically the zona fasciculata, to promote the synthesis and release of cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, exerts negative feedback on the hypothalamus and pituitary to regulate its own production.

Clinical Significance

Several clinical conditions are associated with abnormalities in the adrenal zona fasciculata:

  1. Cushing's Syndrome: Excessive production of cortisol can lead to Cushing's syndrome. This condition may result from adrenal tumors, pituitary adenomas, or prolonged administration of glucocorticoid medications. Patients with cushing's syndrome often present with weight gain, moon facies, buffalo hump, muscle weakness, and hypertension.

  2. Addison's Disease: Insufficient production of cortisol can occur in Addison's disease, often caused by autoimmune destruction of the adrenal glands. Patients may experience fatigue, weight loss, hypotension, hyperpigmentation, and electrolyte imbalances.

  3. Adrenocortical Carcinoma: Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare malignancy arising from the adrenal cortex, including the zona fasciculata. It can present with symptoms related to excessive cortisol production, such as Cushing's syndrome.


Understanding the anatomy, function, and clinical significance of the adrenal zona fasciculata is essential for medical professionals. Knowledge of this topic is particularly important when evaluating patients with adrenal disorders, such as Cushing's syndrome, Addison's disease, and adrenocortical carcinoma.

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