Luteinising hormone, like follicle stimulating hormone, is a gonadotrophic hormone produced and released by cells in the anterior pituitary gland. It is crucial in regulating the function of the testes in men and ovaries in women.
In men, luteinising hormone stimulates Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone, which acts locally to support sperm production. Testosterone also exerts effects all around the body to generate male characteristics such as increased muscle mass, enlargement of the larynx to generate a deep voice, and the growth of facial and body hair.
In women, luteinising hormone carries out different roles in the two halves of the menstrual cycle. In weeks one to two of the cycle, luteinising hormone is required to stimulate the ovarian follicles in the ovary to produce the female sex hormone, oestradiol. Around day 14 of the cycle, a surge in luteinising hormone levels causes the ovarian follicle to tear and release a mature oocyte (egg) from the ovary, a process called ovulation. For the remainder of the cycle (weeks three to four), the remnants of the ovarian follicle form a corpus luteum. Luteinising hormone stimulates the corpus luteum to produce progesterone, which is required to support the early stages of pregnancy, if fertilisation occurs.