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Mastering Mnemonics: Signaling Pathways For USMLE Step 1

Dr. Christopher Carrubba and Dr. Taylor Purvis contributed to this article.

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 ChAMPS B.G.
Use: Hormones that utilize cAMP

Of all the mnemonics that I am about to mention, I like 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 (and Lipotropin)



C – CRH and calcitonin

h – hCG and H2 (histamine)

A – ADH (v2 receptor), Alpha 2 adrenergic, Adenosine 2

M – MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone), M2, M4

P – PTH, Prolactin Inhibiting Factor (Dopamine)

S – Somatostatin, Serotonin, Secretin

B – Beta adrenergics (B1, B2)

G – Glucagon, GHRH, GABA-B

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, GHRH (yes: it does IP3 and cAMP)

O – oxytocin

A – ADH (v1 receptor)


H – H1

A – angiotensin II

G – gastrin

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 MAP and JAK/STAT pathway.

P – Prolactin

I – Immunomodulators (cytokines, IL-2, IFN)

G – Growth Hormone

G – Granulocyte colony stimulating factor

L – Lymphokines (IL6, IL2, IFN, TNF, GF), Leptin


T – Thrombopoietin

Mnemonic: all the “N”s

Use: c-GMP Mechanism

You can remember hormones that use the c-GMP mechanism as those that begin with the letter N.

  1. Nitric oxide (NO)
  2. Natriuretic peptides (BNP, ANP)
  3. Night sight (retinal rod photoreceptors in the dark)

Mnemonic: PET CAT V

Use: Hormone response elements on DNA

When you think of the lipophilic hormones that bind to DNA, think of a pet cat named V.

P – Progesterone

E – Estrogen

T – Testosterone

C – Cortisol

A – Aldosterone

T – Thyroid hormone

V – Vitamin D