Peptides and anxiety: A dose‐response evaluation of pentagastrin in healthy volunteers

Una D. McCann, Shiyoko O. Slate, Marilla Geraci, Thomas W. Uhde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


A large body of data suggest that brain cholecystokinin (CCK) systems are involved in the regulation of anxiety, and numerous studies have demonstrated that CCK‐4, a CCKB agonist, reliably induces panic attacks in patients with panic disorder. Recently, pentagastrin, a commercially available CCKB agonist, has been reported to have similar anxiogenic properties. To further explore the utility of pentagastrin as a challenge agent and to determine whether its effects are dose‐related, a dose‐response study was conducted in ten healthy volunteers. Pentagastrin (0.2 μg kg, 0.6 μg/kg and 1.0 μg/kg) and inactive placebo were infused over one minute on four separate challenge days in a double‐blind fashion. Subjects received pentagastrin while participating in a structured social interaction task. Repeated measures of anxiety, blood pressure, pulse, ACTH, and cortisol were taken at baseline and postinfusion. Pentagastrin administration led to increases in anxiety, pulse, ACTH, cortisol and physical symptoms of panic, in a dose‐related manner. Participation in the social interaction task led to increases in measures of anxiety as well as increases in pulse and blood pressure. Few differences were found between the 0.2 μg/kg dose of pentagastrin and placebo, or between the 0.6 μg/kg and the 1.0 μg/kg doses of pentagastrin. These findings support the notion that CCK systems are involved in the regulation of anxiety, and suggest that the 0.6 μg/kg dose may be optimal for increasing symptoms of anxiety while minimizing unpleasant side effects. The powerful anxiogenic effects of the social interaction task underscore the importance of contextual variables in challenge studies. Anxiety 1:258–267 (1994/1995). © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-267
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • CCK
  • chemical models
  • panic
  • social interaction
  • social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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