gland, organ that manufactures chemical substances. A gland may vary from a single cell to a complex system of tubes that unite and open onto a surface through a duct. The endocrine glands, e.g., the thyroid, adrenals, and pituitary, produce hormones that are secreted directly into the bloodstream (see endocrine system). Exocrine glands secrete their substances onto an external or internal body surface. Most exocrine glands, e.g., the salivary and lacrimal glands, release their secretions through ducts. However, some open directly onto a body surface, as in the sebaceous glands of the skin and the digestive glands of the intestinal mucosa. A simple exocrine gland may consist only of a tube lined with secretory cells. In more complex types, clumps of cells produce the secretion and a duct or system of ducts discharges the secreted material. Some glands have dual functions, e.g., the liver, pancreas, ovary, and testis produce both a secretion that is emitted through a duct and a hormone that is taken up by the blood. Such structures are called mixed glands. Among the substances produced by exocrine glands in humans are sweat, lubricants like mucus and tears, and digestive juices. There are specialized exocrine glands in the animal world that produce such substances as the shells of bird eggs, spiderwebs, and the cocoons of the silkworm larvae. Simple glands are also common in the plant kingdom. The sweet nectar of flowers and the resinous pitch of pine trees are substances produced by plant glands.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.