Central serotonin transporter levels are associated with stress hormone response and anxiety

Matthias Reimold, Astrid Knobel, Michael A. Rapp, Anil Batra, Klaus Wiedemann, Andreas Ströhle, Anke Zimmer, Peter Schönknecht, Michael N. Smolka, Daniel R. Weinberger, David Goldman, Hans Jürgen Machulla, Roland Bares, Andreas Heinz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Rationale: Negative mood states are characterized by both stress hormone dysregulation and serotonergic dysfunction, reflected by altered thalamic serotonin transporter (5-HTT) levels. However, so far, no study examined the individual association between cortisol response and cerebral in vivo 5-HTT levels in patients suffering from negative mood states. Objective: The objective of this cross-sectional study was to assess the interrelation of cortisol response, thalamic 5-HTT levels, and anxiety in healthy subjects and two previously published samples of patients with unipolar major depression (UMD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), controlling for age, gender, 5-HTT genotype, smoking, and seasonality. Methods: Regional 5-HTT levels and cortisol response to dexamethasone-corticotropin (Dex-CRH) challenge were assessed in consecutive samples of medication-free patients suffering from UMD (N = 10) and OCD (N = 10), and 20 healthy volunteers. The intervention used was combined Dex-CRH test and [11C]DASB positron emission tomography. The main outcome measures were: 5-HTT binding potential (BPND) in a predefined thalamic ROI, cortisol response defined as the maximum cortisol increase in the combined Dex-CRH-test, and state of anxiety from the state-trait-anxiety inventory. Results: Reduced thalamic 5-HTT BPND was associated with increased cortisol response (r = -0.35, p < 0.05; in patients: r = -0.53, p < 0.01) and with increased state anxiety (r = -0.46, p < 0.01), surviving correction for age, gender, 5-HTT genotype, smoking, and seasonality (p < 0.05). The 5-HTT genotype, on the contrary, was not significantly associated with cortisol response (p = 0.19) or negative mood (p = 0.23). Conclusion: The association between stress hormone response, thalamic 5-HTT levels, and anxiety in patients suffering from negative mood states suggests an interaction between two major mechanisms implicated in negative mood states in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-572
Number of pages10
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume213
Issue number2-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Dex-CRH-Test
  • Negative mood states
  • PET
  • Serotonin transporter
  • Stress hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

Cite this

Reimold, M., Knobel, A., Rapp, M. A., Batra, A., Wiedemann, K., Ströhle, A., Zimmer, A., Schönknecht, P., Smolka, M. N., Weinberger, D. R., Goldman, D., Machulla, H. J., Bares, R., & Heinz, A. (2011). Central serotonin transporter levels are associated with stress hormone response and anxiety. Psychopharmacology, 213(2-3), 563-572. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-010-1903-y