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I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I missed a question regarding the signaling pathways of endocrine hormones when I was using UWorld to prepare for Step 1. At some point, I finally had the realization that this was something that I would just have to memorize.

Fortunately, I came across the following helpful mnemonics before my exam. Looking back, I think I had at least three questions on this topic. Ever since then, I have made it a point to utilize these with the students I tutor; and now, I hope they can help you as well. Enjoy!

Mnemonic: FLAT ChAMP
Use: hormones that utilize cAMP

Of all the mnemonics that I am about to mention, I prefer this one the most because it actually has cyclic AMP (cAMP) as part of its name, which definitely helps me remember it better.

L – LH
C – CRH and calcitonin
h – hCG
A – ADH (v2 receptor)
M – MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone)

The only unfortunate aspect of this mnemonic is that it leaves out GHRH and glucagon — both of which also act via cAMP.

Mnemonic: GOAT HAG
Use: Hormones that utilize IP3

I’ve never figured out how GOAT HAG has anything to do with IP3, but it works so I don’t question it.

G – GnRH
O – oxytocin
A – ADH (v1 receptor)
H – histamine (H1 receptor)
A – angiotensin II
G – gastrin


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Mnemonic: VETTT CAP
Use: Hormones utilizing intracellular receptors

Again, the mnemonic doesn’t really fit the topic, but I have noticed that hormones with intracellular receptors are the most frequently tested of the endocrine hormones that we are discussing here. So, I would definitely make a big effort to memorize this one.

V – Vitamin D
E – Estrogen
T – Testosterone
T – T3
T – T4
C – Cortisol
A – Aldosterone
P – Progesterone

Mnemonic: PIGGLET
Use: Hormones with receptor-associated tyrosine kinases

What you’ll notice is that this mnemonic includes all of the hormones acting through the JAK/STAT pathway.

P – Prolactin
I – Immunomodulators (cytokines, IL-2, IFN)
G – Growth Hormone
G – Granulocyte colony stimulating factor
T – Thrombopoietin

Finally, an astute student is definitely noticing that I did leave some of the endocrine hormones out. Unfortunately, not all of the hormones have mnemonics similar to the above. However, they can be neatly grouped by category into two subsets:

1. Cyclic GMP (cGMP) — all of the vasodilators (ANP, BNP, NO)
2. Intrinsic tyrosine kinase — MAP kinase pathway/growth factors (Insulin, IGF, FGF, EGF).

Good luck on your test! And be sure to check back for more helpful mnemonics!

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Dr. Christopher Carrubba

Dr. Christopher Carrubba

USMLE Tutor & Senior Contributing Editor
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