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Somatostatin - Functions and Associated Diseases

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Somatostatin is a hormone that inhibits the release of other hormones to control a number of bodily functions. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Basuki Nath Bhagat

Published At April 13, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 13, 2023

What Is Somatostatin?

Somatostatin is a hormone that the body produces in large quantities, primarily in the digestive and nervous systems. It controls a wide range of physiological processes and prevents the release of additional hormones, gastrointestinal activity, and the rapid division of healthy and tumor cells. Somatostatin may function in the nervous system as a neurotransmitter.

The pituitary gland, which is located below the hypothalamus, secretes hormones that are controlled by this area of the brain. The hypothalamic hormone somatostatin prevents the pituitary gland from secreting thyroid-stimulating hormone and growth hormone.

Additionally, the pancreas produces somatostatin, which prevents the release of other pancreatic hormones like glucagon and insulin. The gastrointestinal tract produces somatostatin, which has a local effect on the reduction of gastric secretion, gastrointestinal motility, and the inhibition of the release of gastrointestinal hormones like gastrin and secretin.

Somatostatin analogs that have undergone chemical modification are used as a form of medical therapy to treat various tumors, gastrointestinal conditions, and acromegaly patients who secrete too much hormone.

What Is the Function of Somatostatin?

Somatostatin's primary role is to inhibit the endocrine system's other hormones from being produced as well as some exocrine system secretions. The endocrine system is made up of glands that directly release hormones into the blood. The thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands are endocrine glands. The glands in the exocrine system release substances through a duct. Salivary glands, sweat glands, and gastrointestinal tract glands are examples of exocrine glands.

Somatostatin essentially functions to stop the flow of some hormones and secretions when the body no longer requires them (temporarily). Somatostatin also prevents cells, such as those that could develop tumors, from reproducing abnormally quickly. It also functions in the central nervous system as a neurotransmitter. A neuron releases a signaling molecule called a neurotransmitter to influence another cell. Somatostatin has an impact on a number of body parts, including:

  • Somatostatin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, inhibits the release of prolactin, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and growth hormone in the hypothalamus.

  • It prevents the release of pancreatic enzymes that aid in digestion as well as pancreatic hormones like insulin, glucagon, and gastrin in the pancreas.

  • Somatostatin inhibits gastric secretion, which is induced by eating, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Additionally, it restricts the release of digestive hormones like secretin and gastrin.

  • Somatostatin alters memory formation and neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS). Somatostatin is also referred to as growth hormone inhibiting hormone (GHIH) due to its strong ability to inhibit growth hormone (GH). The control of GH is regulated by both positive and negative control, unlike many hypothalamic-pituitary axes, which are regulated through a negative feedback mechanism.

What Causes the Release of Somatostatin?

Scientists are still discovering the reason that triggers the tissues to release somatostatin and the way the body regulates these processes. However, it is known that a variety of cells and substances, including proteins, are involved in the release of somatostatin.

A study found that glucose (sugar), the primary energy source the body uses, not only controls somatostatin release but also contributes to its own production. The researchers found that glucagon-stimulated somatostatin (glucagon-inhibiting somatostatin) was released when blood glucose levels were high and insulin-stimulated somatostatin (insulin-inhibiting somatostatin) was released only when blood glucose levels were low. In other words, because insulin lowers blood sugar levels, the body releases somatostatin to stop the production of insulin when the blood sugar is low in order to prevent it from lowering further.

What Diseases Are Associated With Somatostatin Issues?

A very uncommon endocrine tumor known as somatostatinoma is the primary condition linked to somatostatin issues. The pancreas or gastrointestinal tract is where the tumor first appears, and it overproduces somatostatin. A somatostatinoma, a rare endocrine tumor that produces the hormone somatostatin, may be the cause of elevated blood levels of the hormone. The secretion of many endocrine hormones is severely reduced when somatostatin levels are excessive. An illustration of this is the ability of the pancreas to secrete less insulin, which results in higher blood sugar levels (diabetes). Somatostatin inhibits a number of gastrointestinal functions, so when it is produced in excess, it can also cause gallstones, dietary fat intolerance, and diarrhea.

Somatostatinoma may develop spontaneously or due to specific genetic syndromes, such as:

  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) Type 1: It is a rare genetic disorder in which various tumors have an impact on various endocrine system functions.

  • Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1): This is an inherited condition that results in benign tumors and flat patches of skin that are light brown or coffee-colored (cafe-au-lait spots).

  • Von Hippel-Lindau Disease: This is a rare inherited condition that can result in benign or malignant tumors in the brain, spinal cord, eyes, kidneys, pancreas, and adrenal glands.

Somatostatinoma can be challenging to diagnose because its symptoms can resemble those of numerous other diseases. Somatostatin regulates numerous physiological processes, and low levels would result in a number of issues, including excessive growth hormone secretion. However, somatostatin deficiency cases are rarely reported.

What Tests Can Check Somatostatin Levels?

Healthcare professionals typically use a blood test called somatostatin-like-immunoreactivity (SLI) to evaluate somatostatin levels to diagnose somatostatinoma, a very uncommon tumor that produces excess somatostatin because somatostatin issues are uncommon.

Somatostatin problems are uncommon, however, it is crucial to let the doctor know if a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) has been identified with Von Hippel-Lindau disease, neurofibromatosis type 1, or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1. An individual may be at risk of developing somatostatinoma due to genetic predisposition.


Somatostatin is a crucial hormone that has an impact in regulating various bodily functions, including digestion, insulin and glucagon secretion, and growth hormone release. A healthcare provider must be informed if a family member has been identified with an inherited condition that puts them at risk for developing somatostatinoma. This is because somatostatinomas, are tumors that secrete excessive somatostatin, which can cause complications. Various tests can be conducted to determine whether a person might be affected by the condition. Fortunately, somatostatin typically functions and somatostatin-related problems and somatostatinomas are uncommon.

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Dr. Basuki Nath Bhagat
Dr. Basuki Nath Bhagat

Family Physician


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