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Topic Homeostasis

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: Explain the concept of homeostasis and the negative feedback loop; Summarise the regulation of blood sugar levels and the hormones and mechanisms involved in this; Describe the structure and mechanism of action of the human kidney and discuss its role in osmoregulation; Explain the mechanism of nerve impulse transmission; Summarise the process of synaptic transmission; Describe the reproductive systems of a human male and female; and Explain the hormonal regulation of the human menstrual cycle.

INTRODUCTION

The previous topic has introduced you to animal physiology. This topic covers the second part of animal physiology which discusses the topic homeostasis, including the urinary, nervous and reproductive systems.

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12.1

HOMEOSTASIS

We learnt in chemistry that matter tends to assume its lowest energy state. It tends to change towards high entropy by changing from an ordered state to a disordered state. The survival of organisms depends on the ability to overcome this tendency to disorderliness by remaining stable. By bathing cells in a fluid whose composition remains constant, the chemical reactions within these cells can take place at a predictable rate. The cells will be able to survive and function efficiently and the whole organisms can become more independent of its environment. All living things are able to control their internal conditions so that their cells have a constant chemical and physical environment in which they can function effectively. This regulation and maintenance of a relatively constant set of conditions within an organism is called homeostasis. It is a feature of all living systems, from single cell to the whole biosphere.

12.1.1 Principles of Homeostasis


Homeostasis is the maintenance of a constant internal environment. Organisms are open systems. That is why exchange of materials occur between organisms and environment. In order to maintain themselves in a stable condition against the natural tendency to disorder, organisms require a constant input of energy. Control systems that are capable of detecting any deviation from the usual and making the necessary adjustments to return it to its normal condition are required in order to maintain this stability. In a control system as shown in Figure 12.1, the basic components required are stated below. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Reference point - the set at which the system operates. Detector - detects the extent of any deviation from the reference point. Controller - coordinates the information received from various detectors and sends out suitable instructions in order to correct the deviation. Effector - brings about the changes that are needed in order to return to the reference point. Feedback loop - informs the detector of any change in the system as a result of action taken by the effector.

Figure 12.1: Components of a control system

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An example of this type of control system can be found in the regulation of a central heating system in a home. In this system the different components available are: 1. Reference point - the temperature that you determine in advance by choice through your experience (e.g. 25C is the temperature that you are comfortable with and this temperature is then set on the thermostat); Detector - the thermostat that detects and monitors the temperature of the room; Controller - the programmer that can be set to turn the heating on and off at the required time. Effector - the boiler, circulation pump, radiators and various pipe work that are linked to them; and Feedback loop - the air within the room that circulates constantly.

2. 3. 4. 5.

12.1.2 Temperature Regulation


Temperature regulation is an example of homeostasis. In order to ensure that vital chemical reactions continue in a normal way, it is important to maintain a constant body temperature even when the surrounding temperature changes. An organism needs to balance its heat gain with its heat loss to maintain a stable body temperature. This regulation of body temperature is called thermoregulation. Endothermic (warm-blooded) animals, like the birds and mammals, have constantbody temperature. Therefore, they have an advantage over the ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, such as reptiles and insects, which have variable body temperature. Reptiles and insects can regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun or seeking shade. However, they become sluggish if the temperature falls because their vital chemistry slows down. Our body temperature is controlled by the hypothalamus, a small structure at the base of the midbrain. It acts as the bodys thermostat by monitoring the temperature of the blood passing through it. The hypothalamus detects an increase in the temperature of its blood supply and receives nerve impulses from the skins heat receptors when the environment is hot. It sends out nerve impulses that bring about vasodilation of arterioles, which allow more blood to reach the capillaries near the skin surface, so that more heat is lost by radiation.

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Figure 12.2 shows the diagrams of vasodilation and vasoconstriction mechanisms.

Figure 12.2: Vasodilation and vasoconstriction

Increase in sweating results in more sweat lying on the skin surface. The skin is cooled when this sweat begins to evaporate. The hairs lie flat against the skin when the erector muscles relax which reduces the stationary layer of insulating air. Elevation and depression of hair in controlling heat loss is shown in Figure 12.3.

Figure 12.3: Elevation and depression of hair in controlling heat loss

Figure 12.4 summarises body temperature control by the hypothalamus.

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Figure 12.4: Summary of body temperature control by hypothalamus

The hypothalamus detects a decrease in the temperature of its blood supply and receives impulses from the skins cold receptors when the surrounding environment gets cold. It sends out nerve impulses and through vasoconstriction of arterioles, diverts blood away from the skin surface so that less heat is lost through radiation. Sweating then is very much reduced. By contraction of the erector muscles, the hairs are raised and trap a stationery layer of insulating air close to the skin surface. By the involuntary contraction and relaxation of muscles, shivering is induced which results in increased heat production. Body heat is conserved and more heat is produced.

SELF-CHECK 12.1
List down other animal biological systems that are being regulated.

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12.1.3 The Pancreas System


The pancreas secretes insulin and glucagon hormones into the blood in order to regulate the blood sugar level. The pancreas plays a central role in the control of blood glucose. There are groups of different cells present in the pancreas called islets of Langerhans which are made of alpha-cells and beta-cells. Alpha-cells are sensitive to low levels of glucose in the blood and secrete the hormone glucagon. The smaller beta-cells detect increases in blood glucose levels above normal and secrete a different hormone called insulin. Hence, glucagon and insulin hormones act in opposite ways to maintain a constant glucose level.

12.1.4 Control of Blood Sugar


Blood glucose levels could rise due to the absorption of carbohydrates from the alimentary canal and the conversion of amino acids and glycerol to glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis. The conversion of stored glycogen to glucose is called glycogenolysis. In order to meet the bodys need, glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscles can be quickly converted into glucose. A process called deamination breaks down excess amino acids in the liver. Although the amino part of the molecule is excreted, the remainder can be converted into glucose. When a person is fasting, the conversion of stored lipid maintains the blood glucose level. Since animals do not store proteins, starvation may lead to proteins being used, which results in muscular wastage.

12.1.5 Glucagon
Too much lowering of the blood glucose level will be detected by the alpha-cells of the islets of Langerhans. As a result, glucagon will be secreted. This hormone fits into receptor sites on the cell membranes of liver cells. This leads to the activation of enzymes inside the cell that convert glycogen to glucose and increase the rate of gluconeogenesis.

12.1.6 Insulin
The beta-cells of the islets of Langerhans detect the change and secrete insulin if the level of glucose in the blood is too high. This hormone circulates around the body in the bloodstream and attaches to receptor sites on the cell membranes of liver, muscle and adipose cells. Figure 12.5 shows the summary of the blood sugar control by glucagon and insulin.

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Figure 12.5: Summary of blood sugar control by glucagons and insulin

You can test your understanding by doing the exercises below.

EXERCISE 12.1
1. (a) (b) (c) (a) (b) What is homeostasis? What are control systems? Explain all the components of a control system and its functions. Describe how mammalian blood glucose concentrations are maintained at a relatively constant level. Explain the mechanism involved in the control of blood glucose concentrations by insulin and glucagon.

2.

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12.2

URINARY SYSTEM

The mammalian kidneys play a central role in homeostasis. It helps to eliminate waste from the blood and regulate the salt and water content of the body. The kidneys function as vital filtration and purification organs. Every day blood passes through it. Unwanted substances are eliminated from the blood and essential ones are retained. The end result is the production of urine consisting of variable amounts of water, urea, and other waste substances. The elimination of metabolic waste is called excretion. The production of urine containing variable amounts of water allows the kidney to control the water content of the body. This process is called osmoregulation.

12.2.1

The Kidneys

In vertebrates, the main organ of nitrogenous excretion is the kidney. Figure 12.6 shows position of the kidneys in man.

Figure 12.6: The position of kidneys in man

In human, a branch of the aorta called the renal artery supplies each kidney with its blood supply. Kidneys are composed of millions of basic filtering units called nephrons. Blood enters the kidney under high pressure to make filtration efficient and the filtered blood leaves the kidneys along the renal veins. Urine is the filtered waste product that is excreted by the kidney and it passes down a muscular tube called the ureter. One ureter connects each kidney to a muscular sac called the bladder where urine is stored. In order for urination to occur, a ring

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of muscle called the sphincter muscle relaxes and allow urine to pass out of the body along the urethra. As the kidneys reabsorb most of the filtered fluid, only a relatively small proportion of urine is produced each day.

12.2.2

Kidney Structure

Each kidney is surrounded by a layer of adipose tissue and a layer of fibrous connective tissue. The layers keep the kidneys in position and protect them from mechanical damage. A cross section of the kidney in Figure 12.7 shows three main areas, namely the cortex, medulla and the pelvis.

Figure 12.7: A longitudinal section of a mammalian kidney to show the position of a nephron

The cortex is the dark outer region. Filtration is carried out here by the nephrons. A dense capillary network receives blood from the renal artery. The lighter inner region is the medulla. Structures called renal pyramids are extensions of each nephron across the medulla. The renal pyramids project into a central space called the pelvis. Before urine can pass down the ureter, it has to pass out into the pelvis.

12.2.3

Nephron Structure

The functional unit of the kidney is the nephron. The structure of a nephron is shown in Figure 12.8.

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Figure 12.8: The structure of a nephron and its blood supply

The kidney tissue is made up of thousands of nephrons. At one end of the nephron in the cortex is the cup-shaped Bowmans capsule. Below the capsule is a twisted region called the proximal convoluted tubule. This leads into the long loop of Henle, which is shaped like a hairpin. The Henle loop runs deep into the medulla and then back out to the cortex, where it forms another twisted region called the distal convoluted tubule. This is joined to a collecting duct, which carries urine through the medulla to the pelvis of the kidney. Each nephron is richly supplied with blood. The renal artery brings blood to the kidney, which branches many times to form arterioles. An afferent arteriole supplies each Bowmans capsule with blood. The afferent arteriole branches inside the Bowmans capsule to form a knot of capillaries called a glomerulus. An efferent arteriole takes blood away from the Bowmans capsule. More blood by volume is carried to the glomerulus than is carried away from it. That is why the afferent arteriole is much wider than the efferent arteriole. (a) Ultrafiltration The function of the glomerulus is the production of a filtrate from blood by a process called ultrafiltration. Figure 12.9 illustrates ultrafiltration in the Bowmans capsule.

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Figure 12.9: Ultrafiltration in the Bowmans capsule

It involves filtering under pressure of small molecules out of the blood and into the Bowmans capsule. The blood entering the glomerulus is separated from the space inside the Bowmans capsule by two cell layers and a basement membrane. The microstructure of glomerulus and Bowmans capsule are illustrated in Figure 12.10.

Figure 12.10: Microstructure of glomerulus and the Bowmans capsule

The first cell layer is the lining or endothelium of the capillary. This layer of cells has thousands of gaps, much more than in other capillaries. The basement membrane between the two cell layers is composed of a network of glycoprotein and collagen fibres. Its mesh-like structure acts as a filter during ultrafiltration. The second cell layer is formed from epithelial cells and makes up the wall of the Bowmans capsule. They have many tiny finger-like projections called podocytes. Like the cells of the capillary, they do not fit tightly together, so there are gaps between them. Most molecules be allowed to pass through the gaps in the capillary endothelium and in the

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Bowmans capsule wall. However, large molecules such as proteins and blood cells will be prevented from passing through the basement membrane, therefore acting as a filter. Small molecules will be allowed to pass through the basement membrane. (b) Reabsorption The fluid which has filtered through the renal capsule is almost identical to the blood plasma except that it does not contain the large plasma protein molecules which are too large to pass through the basement membrane. Many useful substances such as amino acids and glucose needed by the body are reabsorbed into the blood as the filtrate flows along the nephron. This process is called selective reabsorption because only certain molecules are reabsorbed. Most of the reabsorption takes place in the proximal convoluted tubule. All the glucose, amino acids, vitamins and many sodium and chloride ions are actively transported out of the proximal convoluted tubule and back into the blood. The structure of the cells making up the wall of the proximal convoluted tubule has adaptations associated with active transport. Pumps in the membrane reabsorb useful substances by active transport. The microvilli provide a large surface area for absorption and the numerous mitochondria provide ATP for active transport. The uptake of these substances through active transport means that the blood in the capillaries surrounding the nephron has a relatively high solute concentration. Hence, a large amount of water passes out of the filtrate in the proximal convoluted tubule and back into the blood through osmosis. (c) The Loop of Henle The loop of Henle is made up of two regions, the descending limb and the ascending limb. Its function is to create a very high concentration of salts in the tissue fluid deep in the medulla. The ascending limb is more permeable to salts and less permeable to water. The cells in the walls of this area actively transport sodium and chloride ions out of the fluid in the tube, into the tissue fluid between the cells filling the space between the two limbs. As the filtrate moves up, sodium and chloride ions move out passively at first and are then actively pumped out into the surrounding tissue. This causes water to pass out of the descending limb by osmosis. This results in a more concentrated filtrate as it passes down the descending limb of the loop. The net result is that the solute concentration at any part of the loop is lower in the ascending limb than it is in the descending limb.

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(d)

The Distal Convoluted Tubule and Collecting Duct The cells in the distal convoluted tubule are similar to those of the proximal convoluted tubule. They have a brush border and numerous mitochondria. These cells can actively pump sodium ions out of the nephron and into the blood. Hydrogen carbonate ions dissociate from carbonic acid and then also pass into the blood. This can raise the pH of the blood when required as the distal convoluted tubule is able to control the acid/base balance of the blood. The second part of the distal convoluted tubule acts as the collecting duct. Hormones affect the permeability of the walls of both the distal convoluted tubule and the collecting duct, and so precise control of the salt and water balance of the blood is possible. This regulates how much water passes out into the medulla and the concentration of the urine.

12.2.4

Osmoregulation

The kidneys play an important role in homeostasis by regulating the concentration of water in the body fluids. This is known as osmoregulation and operates on a principle of negative feedback. A receptor is needed to monitor whatever that is being controlled, while an effector acts to bring it back to normal if it deviates too far. In this case, the receptors which are responsible for detecting changes are located in the hypothalamus of the brain. These osmoreceptors react to changes in the solute concentration of the blood as it flows through the hypothalamus. Abstaining from drinking for sometime will make the blood more concentrated because it will have a low water potential. This is detected by the osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus, which stimulates the pituitary to release antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Figure 12.11 illustrates the ADH control of water reabsorption and by negative feedback. The release of ADH into the bloodstream makes the distal convoluted tubule and the collecting duct more permeable to water. This allows more water to be reabsorbed from the distal convoluted tubule and the collecting duct into the region of high solute concentration in the medulla. As a result a smaller volume of more concentrated urine is produced. Hence the action of ADH is to conserve body water. If you drink too much water, the blood will have a high water potential and becomes more dilute. This is detected by the osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus and results in a decrease in the amount of ADH secreted by the pituitary. This decrease in the amount of ADH in the bloodstream makes the distal convoluted

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tubule and the collecting duct less permeable to water. Less water is reabsorbed into the medulla and larger volumes of dilute urine are produced.

Figure 12.11: ADH control of water reabsorption in the kidney and a summary of blood sugar control by negative feedback

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Find out the effect of drinking too much of beer at: http://www.purchon.com/biology/osmoregulation.htm

EXERCISE 12.2
1. 2. Define and explain the process of ultrafiltration. Describe the structure, function and processes occurring in the: (a) (b) Loop of Henle; and Distal convoluted tubule.

12.3

NERVOUS SYSTEM

A fundamental characteristic of living organisms is the ability to respond to stimuli. The nervous system controls and coordinates our actions by detecting changes and collecting information about the internal and external environment. The nervous system processes and integrates information, often as a result of previous experience. The nervous system acts upon information by initiating responses to the information by coordinating the bodys activities. In contrast to the endocrine system, the nervous system responds instantaneously to a stimulus. The collection of information from our internal and external environment is done by receptors. Together with the neurones which transmit this information, the receptors form the sensory system. Processing and integration of this sensory information is done by the central nervous system (CNS). The final function whereby information is transmitted to effectors which act upon it, is carried out by the motor system. The sensory and motor neurones are sometimes called the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Sensory neurones which carry information towards the CNS are called afferent neurones, while the motor neurones, which carry information away from the CNS are termed efferent neurones.

12.3.1

Nerve Impulse Transmission

Neurones transmit impulse as a series of electrical signals. These electrical signals pass rapidly along the cell surface membrane surrounding the axon as a nerve impulse. Nerve conduction is a specialised development of the excitability that is common to all animal cells. This mechanism is the same throughout the animal kingdom. Figure 12.12 shows a motor neurone.

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Figure 12.12: A motor neurone

Neurones are capable of transmitting electrical impulses. The electrical impulses pass from receptors along the sensory neurones to the central nervous system. Relay neurones found in the CNS connect with motor neurones along which impulses are transmitted to the effector. Neurones have a cell body containing the nucleus. This cell body has a number of processes called dendrites, which transmit impulses to the cell body. Impulses leave via the axon, which may be several metres in length. Some axons are covered by a fatty myelin sheath formed by Schwann cells. Nerve fibres may be bundled together and wrapped in connective tissue to form nerves. Nerves may be sensory, or mixed. The structure of a sensory neurone as shown in Figure 12.13 is similar to a motor neurone.

Figure 12.13: A sensory neurone

The main difference is that a motor neurone has long dendrite bringing information to the cell body rather than long axon taking information away. The sensory neurone carries impulses from receptor cells towards the brain or spinal cord. Find out about the six steps involved in the transmission of an impulse along a neurone at: http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/DummiesArticle/id-1210.html

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(a)

Resting Potential In a resting axon as shown in Figure 12.14, the inside of the membrane is negatively charged with respect to the outside.

Figure 12.14: The axon of a resting neurone

The difference between the two potentials is called the resting potential and is about 70 mV. The electrical potential on the inside of the axon is 70 mV lower than that on the outside. In this resting state, the condition of the membrane is said to be in polarised state. The neurone in most cells can maintain an internal composition, which is different from the outside. In the case of neurones, through active transport, sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+) ions are transported across the membrane against their concentration gradients. Figure 12.15 shows the maintenance of the resting potential.

Figure 12.15: The maintenance of the resting potential

Na+ ions are picked up by carrier proteins and transported to the outside. At the same time, K+ ions are picked up from the outside and brought across the membrane into the cytoplasm of the axon. This is known as the sodium-potassium pump and requires ATP. The Na+ ions are passed out faster than K+ ions are brought in. Approximately, three Na+ ions leave for every two K+ ions that enter. The membrane is more permeable to K+ ions and these are able to diffuse back out more rapidly than Na+ ions can diffuse back in. As more K+ ions move out, the rate at which they leave decreases. After sometime, equilibrium is reached whereby the rate at which they leave is exactly balanced by the rate of entry. So the net result is

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that the outside of the membrane is positively charged compared to the inside. The resting potential is established and the axon is polarised. (b) The Action Potential By appropriate stimulation, a nerve impulse can be initiated in a neurone and the charge on the neurone can be reversed. When a small electrical current is applied to the axon, the resting potential changes and the negative charge inside the membrane switches from 70 mV to +40 mV. This is known as the action potential and in this condition the membrane is said to be in a depolarised state. The graph of membrane potential difference (mV) versus time (ms) in Figure 12.16, illustrates the action potential.

Figure 12.16: The action potential

For a very brief period, the inside of the axon becomes positive and the outside negative. It returns to resting potential and lasts about 3 milliseconds. This is known as re-polarisation.

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(c)

Depolarisation Changes occur in the permeability of the axon membrane to both Na+ ions and K+ ions when the membrane becomes depolarised. Channels open in its cell surface membrane, which allows Na+ ions to pass through when the axon is stimulated. Since there is a higher concentration of Na+ ions outside the axon membrane they flood in by diffusion. The Na+ ions create a positive charge of +40 mV inside the membrane, reversing the resting potential and causing the action potential. This is shown in Figure 12.17.

Figure 12.17: The movement of ions during an action potential

Re-polarisation starts when potassium channels open in the membrane and K+ ions diffuse out along a concentration gradient. At the same time, sodium channels in the membrane close, preventing any further influx of Na+ ions. This re-establishes the resting potential, since compared with the inside, the outside of the membrane will become positively charged again. In this condition the membrane is said to be in a re-polarised state. When too many ions leave, the charge on the inside of the membrane becomes more negative than before. The potassium channels close and the sodium-potassium pump starts again, restoring the normal concentration of sodium and potassium ions on either side of the membrane. This reestablishes the resting potential.

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(d)

The All or Nothing Law An action potential can only be generated if the stimulus reaches a certain threshold intensity in the neurones. Below this threshold intensity, no action potential can be created. Figure 12.18 illustrates the impulse frequency.

Figure 12.18: The impulse frequency

When this threshold is reached, the size of an impulse is independent of the intensity of the stimulus. Even if the stimulus is more intense, it will not give a greater action potential. However, a strong stimulus produces a greater frequency of action potentials. As the intensity of stimulation increases, more action potentials are generated. If the stimulus was weak, fewer action potentials would be generated. (e) The Refractory Period After an action potential has been generated, further action potential cannot be generated for about a few milliseconds. This is called the refractory period. The sodium channels in the membrane are closed during this time, thus preventing the inward movement of Na+ ions. This is known as the absolute refractory period and another impulse cannot be conducted, no matter how intense the stimulus. Figure 12.19 shows neurone excitability before and after a nerve impulse.

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The absolute refractory period lasts about 1 millisecond. The membrane starts to recover as potassium channels open. Even though it is not fully repolarised, an action potential can occur if the stimulus is more intense than the usual threshold level. This time of reduced excitability can last a further 5 milliseconds ndi s known as the relative refractory period. The importance of the refractory period is that it ensures that impulses flow in one direction along an axon. The region of axon behind the impulse cannot be depolarised. It also limits the frequency at which successive impulses can pass along a neurone.

Figure 12.19: Neurone excitability before and after a nerve impulse

12.3.2

Transmission Speed of an Impulse

The speed of transmission of an impulse depends upon the axon diameter and the myelin sheath. (a) Axon Diameter The rate of transmission of an impulse depends on the diameter of the axon. The greater the diameter the faster will be the speed of transmission.

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This is due to the greater surface area of axon membrane over which exchange of ions can occur. (b) The Myelin Sheath The myelin sheath is produced by the Schwann cells. It is not continuous along the axon, but is absent at points called nodes of Ranvier which arise every millimeter or so along the neurones length. Because the fatty myelin acts as an electrical insulator, an action potential cannot be generated in the part of the axon covered by myelin. However it can be generated at the nodes of Ranvier. So, in myelinated axons, the action potential jumps from one node to the next and in the process increasing the speed at which they are transmitted. The transmission of an impulse along a myelinated neurone is shown in Figure 12.20.

Figure 12.20: The transmission of an impulse along a myelinated neurone

12.3.3 The Synapse


A synapse is the point where the axon of one neurone meets another neurone. Although they meet, they do not touch each other. There is a small gap between them called the synaptic cleft. When an impulse arrives at a synapse, it releases a tiny amount of chemical substances (a neurotransmitter) which sets off an impulse in the next neurone. (a) Synapse Structure The axons of the neurones end in swellings called axon terminals or synaptic bulbs. The structure of a synapse is shown in Figure 12.21.

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Figure 12.21: The structure of a synapse

The surface of the synaptic bulb is called the pre-synaptic membrane. It is separated by the synaptic cleft from the post-synaptic membrane of the cell body or dendrite of the next neurone. The post-synaptic membrane contains many channels through which specific ions can pass. The postsynaptic membrane has a number of large protein molecules on its surface, which act as receptor sites for the transmitter substances. A number of mitochondria are present in the synaptic bulb. This indicates that active transport is involved in synaptic transmission. Also present in the synaptic bulb are a number of synaptic vesicles that contain the neurotransmitter substance, which is released into the synaptic cleft on the arrival of an impulse. A number of neurotransmitters are produced by the nervous system. (b) Synaptic Transmission When a nerve impulse arrives at the synaptic bulb, it alters the permeability of the pre-synaptic membrane to calcium. Calcium ions enter because the concentration of calcium ions is many times greater in the synaptic cleft than inside the synaptic bulb. This causes the synaptic vesicles containing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to move towards the pre-synaptic membrane. Refer to Figure 12.22.

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Figure 12.22: The mechanism of synaptic transmission by acetylcholine

The synaptic vesicles fuse with the pre-synaptic membrane and discharge the neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. The released acetylcholine diffuses across the synaptic cleft and attaches to specific receptor sites on the post-synaptic membrane. These protein receptor sites have a complementary shape to that of acetylcholine. However the binding is only temporary. Due to the binding of the neurotransmitter to the receptor sites, sodium channels opens up in the post-synaptic membrane. When sodium ions flood in, the membrane is depolarised and an action potential is created. If acetylcholine stays bound to the receptor sites on the post-synaptic membrane, then the sodium channels would remain open, continually producing action potentials. To prevent this happening, the acetylcholinesterase enzyme is present in the synaptic cleft. This splits acetylcholine into acetate and choline. The choline is taken up by the pre-

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synaptic cell and combined with acetyl coenzyme A to reform acetylcholine. The energy required for this is provided by the mitonchondria in the synaptic bulb.

SELF-CHECK 12.2
Explain the transmission of an impulse to the brain.

(c)

Functions of the Synapse Synapses perform many functions. One of which is to transmit information between neurones. They also pass impulses in one direction only. Because the neurotransmitter can only be released from only one side of a synapse, nerve impulses have to pass in only one direction along a route. They also act as junctions. Since neurones could converge at a synapse, a number of impulses passing along different neurones due to the additive effect may release sufficient transmitter to generate a new action potential in a single post-synaptic neurone. This is called spatial summation and responses to a single stimulus are coordinated. Synapses also act to filter out low-level stimuli, which are insufficient to create a new impulse in the post-synaptic neurone, and thus stop at the synapse. Synapses also allow adaptation to intense stimulation. A powerful stimulus could result in a high frequency of impulses and in turn could cause considerable release of neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. It will result in the rate at which it is released to exceed the rate at which it can be reformed. In this condition, the release of neurotransmitter ceases. The synapse is fatigued and the reason for such a response is to prevent over stimulation, which could damage an effector.

EXERCISE 12.3
1. Explain and illustrate what is meant by the following: (a) (b) 2. (a) (b) Resting potential; Refractory period. Describe the structure of a synapse. How does synaptic transmission occur?

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12.4

REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

Reproduction is the process of producing offspring. Animals have diploid body cells and haploid sex cells, or gametes. In male animals, the sex cells are called sperms (or spermatozoa), which are made in sex organs called testes. In females, the sex cells are called eggs or ova and are made in the ovaries. Mitosis determines the full chromosomes number of body cells (diploid), while meiosis determines the half chromosomes number of gamete cells (haploid). During sexual reproduction, a sperm and an egg are fused together in a process called fertilisation. This fusion of a haploid sperm with a haploid egg will produce a diploid fertilised egg called a zygote. The zygote then divides many times by mitosis to eventually grow into a new individual.

12.4.1

Male Reproductive System

In the human male, the gonads are the testes. The structure of human male reproductive system is shown in Figures 12.23 and 12.24.

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Figure 12.23: Front and side view of the human male reproductive system

Figure 12.24: Cross section of a human testis

The testes produce the male gametes, the spermatozoa. The male hormone testosterone is also made in the testes. The testes develop inside the abdomen

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and descend into a sac of skin called the scrotum just before birth. The temperature in the scrotum is about 3C lower than the temperature within the body, which is the optimum condition for the production of sperm. Each testis is an oval structure, about five centimetres long. It is divided up into many compartments called lobules, which contain a number of tightly coiled tubes called seminiferous tubules. The seminiferous tubules are lined by the germinal epithelium, which is made up of cells called spermatogonia, which are the cells that divide to form the sperm. The seminiferous tubules merge to form small ducts called the vasa efferentia, which in turn join up to form a six metres long coiled tube called the epididymis. The epididymis leads into the vas deferens, a tube that carries the sperm out of the testis into the urethra. Sperm is stored in both the epididymis and the vas deferens. The seminal vesicles, Cowper s glands and the prostrate gland secrete a sticky fluid into the urethra. It is alkaline and neutralises any acidic urine present in the urethra.The resulting mixture of sperm and these secretions is called semen. During copulation, the semen passes along the urethra and out of the penis into the vagina of the female partner.

12.4.2

Female Reproductive System

In the reproductive system of a human female, the gonads are called the ovaries, which produce the female gametes called ova or eggs. Figures 12.25 and 12.26 illustrate the structure of female reproductive system.

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Figure 12.25: Front and side view of the human female reproductive system

Figure 12.26: Cross section of a human secondary oocyte

Each ovary is an oval structure about four centimetres long, attached to the inside of the abdomen just below the kidney. Eggs are formed from the germinal epithelium on the outside of the ovary, which is made up of actively dividing cells called oogonia. Leading away from each ovaries are the oviducts or Fallopian tube. The funnel-like opening of this tube has a fringe of finger-like fimbriae. This feathery fringe is lined with cilia, which collect the secondary oocytes when they are released from the ovary.

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An egg is released about every 28 days. The oviducts are two muscular tubes lined with cilia. The egg is swept along the oviduct by a combination of ciliary action and muscular contractions of the wall. This is called ovulation. If sperms are present in the oviduct, the egg will be fertilised. If not, it will die after about a day. The oviducts open into the uterus (womb), which is pear-shaped and is about five centimetres wide and eight centimetres long. Most of the uterus wall is composed of smooth muscle, called myometrium. The lining of the womb is called endometrium. It is well-supplied with blood and is the part of the womb into which the embryo implants during pregnancy and which is shed during menstruation. At the base of the uterus is a narrow opening guarded by a ring of muscle called the cervix. The vagina is a muscular tube, which opens to the outside through the vulva (a collective name for the external genital organs). These consist of two outer folds of skin, the labia majora, which covers two inner, more delicate folds, the labia minora. Enclosed within the labia is a small body of erectile tissue called the clitoris, which is homologous to the penis of a male. It is very sensitive and when sexually stimulated, swells with blood. Between the vaginal opening and the clitoris is the urethra.

12.4.3

Spermatogenesis

This is the process in which sperms are produced in the densely-coiled seminiferous tubules. Figure 12.27 shows the stages in the development of human sperm.

Figure 12.27: Stages in the development of human sperm

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The germinal epithelium produces diploid spermatogonia and through mitosis divide many times to produce primary spermatocytes. These then undergo meiosis to form haploid secondary spermatocytes. The secondary spermatocytes develop into spermatids, which eventually form mature sperm in the space inside the seminiferous tubule. Large Sertoli cells, present in the wall of the seminiferous tubule, secrete fluid, which ensures that the spermatids have adequate nourishment. Groups of interstitial cells, present around each seminiferous tubule, secrete testosterone, the male sex hormone that controls the development of secondary sexual characteristics in a male.

12.4.4

Oogenesis

This is the process by which eggs are produced in the ovary and starts in the foetus when the oogonia lining the germinal epithelium divide to form primary oocytes. Figure 12.28 shows the stages in the development of a follicle in a human ovary.

Figure 12.28: Stages in the development of a follicle in a human ovary

The germinal epithelium also divides to form follicle cells, which surrounds the primary oocytes forming primary follicles. At birth, a baby girl will already have about a million primary follicles. The primary oocytes will have started to divide by meiosis, but the process stops at prophase 1.

SELF-CHECK 12.3
What are the phases involved in meiosis?

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At puberty, hormones produced by the pituitary stimulate the follicles to develop further. Each month, several follicles start to develop but usually only one matures into a fully developed Graafian follicle. The primary oocytes complete its meiotic division to form a secondary oocyte and a small polar body. The follicle cells around the secondary oocyte grow and a number of fluid-filled spaces form. The mature Graafian follicle migrates to the surface of the ovary. Eventually the follicle bursts and the secondary oocyte surrounded by some follicle cells is released, a process known as ovulation. The second division of meiosis to form a mature ovum will only occur if a sperm penetrates the secondary oocyte. After ovulation, the remaining follicle cells develop into a corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is important in secreting the hormone progesterone.

12.4.5

The Menstrual Cycle

From the start of puberty (around twelve years old), human females usually produce one mature egg each month. The menstrual cycle which lasts for about twenty-eight days, continues until menopause at the age of forty-five to fifty years old. The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones and involves the production and release of an egg (ovulation) and the preparation of the uterus to receive the egg if it becomes fertilised (implantation). Figure 12.29 illustrates the human menstrual cycle.

Figure 12.29: Changes occurring during human menstrual cycle

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The start of the cycle is taken to be the initial discharge of blood through the vagina and is known as menstruation. This involved the breakdown of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). The menstrual cycle involves the interaction of four hormones. The anterior pituitary gland in the brain secretes folliclestimulating hormone (FSH), which causes the Graafian follicles to develop in the ovary. It also stimulates the ovary to produce the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen causes the repair and thickening of the lining of the uterus following menstruation. It also inhibits the production of FSH by the anterior pituitary gland, and stimulates it to secrete a second hormone, luteinising hormone (LH). LH causes ovulation to take place, which causes the release of a secondary oocyte from the Graafian follicle at about fourteen days into the cycle. LH also stimulates the remaining follicle cells in the ovary to form the corpus luteum, which secretes the hormone progesterone. Progesterone, along with oestrogen, inhibits the production of both FSH and LH by the anterior pituitary. Progesterone and oestrogen stimulate the further growth and blood supply of the endometrium in preparation for implantation of the fertilised egg. If pregnancy occurs, these two hormones continue to be produced. If there is no pregnancy, then the corpus luteum starts to degenerate and the levels of progesterone and oestrogen fall. FSH is no longer inhibited and starts to be secreted by the pituitary. The endometrium breaks down, resulting in menstruation, and the cycle starts again.

12.4.6

Fertilisation

For fertilisation to take place, the sperm has to travel from the seminiferous tubule of the male to the oviduct of the female. Sexual arousal results in the penis of the male becoming erect. This is the result of an increase in the blood supply to the spongy tissue of the penis. In this condition the penis can be inserted into the females vagina. Sexual stimulation may eventually result in waves of intense pleasure for both partners, known as an orgasm. In the male, the semen is forced out of the penis by powerful rhythmic contractions of the urethra. This is called ejaculation. The force of ejaculation of the semen from the penis is sufficient to propel some sperm through the cervix into the uterus, while the remainder is deposited at the top of the vagina. About 2 to 6 cm3 of semen is ejaculated and deposited at the top of the vagina near the cervix of the female during copulation. Sperms swim using their tails up through the cervix, through the uterus and into the oviducts. The speed with which they reach the top of the oviducts indicates that muscular contractions of the uterus and oviduct are also involved. Sperm can only swim at a rate of about 4 mm min1. The sperm can remain viable for up

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to 2 days. If a sperm does not fertilise the egg within 8 to 24 hours after ovulation, it will die. This is because the egg released from the Graafian follicle of the ovary is metabolically inactive and dies within 24 hours. By this time it has only travelled a short way along the oviduct. So a sperm must reach an egg while it is quite near the top of the oviduct if fertilisation is to be successful. The alkaline semen helps to neutralise the acid fluid in the vagina and uterus. Out of the millions of sperm in one ejaculation, only a few hundred will finally reach the oviducts. If ovulation has recently occurred, then there will be a secondary oocyte in the oviduct. The male nucleus of the sperm fuses with the egg nucleus, producing a diploid zygote or fertilised egg, which will develop into a foetus.

Homeostasis is the maintenance of a constant internal environment within a living organism. In mammals, the hypothalamus monitors body temperature and switches on a number of corrective mechanisms if the body temperature rises or falls too much. The pancreas secretes glucagons to raise the blood glucose level, and secretes insulin to reduce the blood glucose level. The kidneys are the main organs of the urinary system and are composed of numerous nephrons. The Bowmans capsule of each nephron is well adapted for ultrafiltration of the blood. The loop of Henle creates a region of high solute concentration deep in the medulla by the counter current multiplier mechanism. This enables water to be reabsorbed back into the blood. The secretion of ADH by the pituitary increases the reabsorption of water from the nephron. Neurones are the basic functional units of the nervous system. At rest, the nerve axon is polarised. The sodium-potassium pump makes the outside of the axon positive and the inside of the axon negative. An action

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potential results in the inside of the axon becoming positive and the outside negative. Changes in the permeability of the axon membrane result in an influx of sodium ions and depolarisation before the sodium-potassium pump is reestablished and the axon is re-polarised. An action potential can only be generated if the stimulus reaches certain threshold intensity. Following the passage of an impulse, there is a time delay, or refractory period, before another action potential can be created. A synapse is where two neurones functionally meet. The transfer of information from one neurone to the next relies on the secretion of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine. Sexual reproduction involves the production of haploid gametes, which fuse at fertilisation to produce a diploid zygote. In human males, the testes produce spermatozoa. In the female, ovaries produce eggs. Spermatogenesis is the production of sperm, and oogenesis is the production of eggs. These processes involve meiosis to form haploid gametes. The menstrual cycle involves the production and release of eggs (ovulation) and the preparation of the uterus to receive the egg if it is fertilised (implantation).

1.

The following examples of homeostasis occur in human body EXCEPT: A. Temperature regulation B. Blood sugar regulation C. Meiosis system D. Urinary system The following are some incidents when humans sweat EXCEPT: A. Increased metabolic rate B. Vasodilation of arterioles C. Hair erector muscles relax D. None of the above

2.

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3.

Which of the following is a hormone that regulates the blood sugar level in human body? I. Insulin II. Glucagon III. Islets of Langerhans A. B. C. D. I only I and II only II and III only. I, II and III.

4.

The followings are functions of the synapse EXCEPT: A. They transmit information between neurons. B. They allow impulses to be passed in one direction. C. They filter low-level stimuli. D. They can only be found in-between sensory neurons. Both human male and female contain the followings EXCEPT: A. Ureter B. Urethra C. Bladder D. Vas deferens

5.

1.

(a) (b)

Explain the role of hypothalamus in the control of body temperature. How do glucagon and insulin control blood sugar? Explain with a diagram. Describe briefly the functions of glomerulus and Bowmans capsule in ultra-filtration of blood in the kidney. How does Anti Diuretic Hormone (ADH) control reabsorption of water in the kidney? Explain this phenomenon of absorption with a diagram. Discuss synapse structure and synaptic transcription mechanism. Compare the stages in the development of human sperm and human ovary.

2.

(a) (b)

3.

(a) (b)