Figure 2. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Corticotropin-releasing factor produced in the hypothalamus stimulates the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the production of cortisol and androgens in the adrenal cortex. There is negative feedback on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland by cortisol.